I tend to dislike work that begins with a suicide attempt—-it is often over-dramatic. It’s uncomfortable, but not because it’s supposed to be. For some reason, it’s laughable. The Making of a Modern Folk Hero begins with a suicide attempt. The play looks like it’s going to fall prey to bad devices. The first scenes drags on. I expected the rest of the performance to be dreadful. It is not. It quickly picks up, and delivers excellent entertainment for the next hour.
A congressman wants to stop the destruction of some public housing. His hands tied, he thinks a stunt—-like employing a superhero to stop the bulldozers—-might work. He asks his old college buddy, a theater major, if he’s be interested in the part. He is, and a superhero is born. Portrayed as equal parts Marc Maron, Woody Allen, and the lead in Kick-Ass, actor Bradley Smith is a great Volo Publicus/Renzo Rafaeli. His slightly intoxicated, somewhat jolly, and definitly neurotic take is perfect for this smart script. Danielle Davis is also good as investigative blogger/narrator Vanessa Ferrer. Fans of The Wire’s fifth season will be pleased.
Though the premise isn’t that original (in the last three years we’ve seen three films with a regular-guy-turned-superhero: Super, Kick-Ass, Defendor), it’s still not stale. What’s more important than a new concept is a well-written script. Writer Martin Zimmerman knows when to tell a joke and when to let the audience decide if something is funny. After the first scene, most of the play is told through short, somewhat exciting scenes. Everything said on the stage needed to be said.
We all want superheroes to exist; guys in tights fighting for the common good is wonderfully simple idea. The problem is there is no such thing as the common man, or good vs. evil. We live in a grey world, and Zimmerman did an excellent job acknowledging that.
More people should have attended The Making of a Modern Folk Hero. I found its themes relatable, despite the superhero theme. It’s not exactly a drama or a comedy. It commented on real issues without getting preachy. All in all, it’s a highly enjoyable play, one that will hopefully be staged again after this festival wraps.
The play runs June 17 at 9 p.m., June 25 at 8 p.m., June 30 at 8 p.m., and July 3 at 8 p.m. at Source Theatre, 1835 14th St. NW. $20. sourcedc.org.