Friday, July 11, 2008

Review: The Hourglass and the Poisoned Pen

Wonder Woman. Batwoman. The Bionic Woman. Buffy Summers. Elastigirl. Juliette Lewis. Isis. Lavagirl. She-Ra.

Face it, chick superheroines rock. And so do tap dancers.

So when I had a free evening on this most recent holiday weekend, I searched the entertainment listings for a show that might satisfy both my fetishes. And suddenly, as if Chicago Tap Theater had read my mind, I saw an ad for The Hourglass and the Poisoned Pen – the all new Superhero Tap Dance Opera currently playing at the Athenaeum Theater. I gathered up my credit card and the Mrs. and made my way to the next showing.

The theater building was cool, but the show was not in the main auditorium. In fact, after purchasing our tickets we were directed upstairs to the third floor – Studio 3. Awesome. When the doors opened it was just the type of theater that I love. Probably no more than 80 seats, some of them ripped and repaired with duct tape and others missing arm rests. A simple plywood stage in front and one large panel featuring our heroine as the set. The director/dancer/co-writer/choreographer/board member came out for the intro telling us to have fun, cheer for the good guys (or bad guys), boo the bad guys (or the good guys), and be thankful you weren’t at the Jonas Brothers show.

What is a superhero tap dance opera you ask? Well, just enough background and plot lines are flashed on the background of the set so you can read along as you would a comic book. But instead of looking at drawings similar to those that filled the notebook of that fat kid you knew in junior high, you had some bad-ass tap dancers bringing the action to life.

You see, sweet Elizabeth loved working in her father’s clock and watch shop until he was killed during a brutal robbery, at which time she received the special power to slow down time. With the encouragement of Daphne, her wacky friend and comic book store proprietor, she decided she needed to fulfill the obligation to use her powers for good over the evil lurking in her town. Elizabeth, after receiving a gift from Daphne containing her superheroine costume of a blue suit, fishnets and yellow tapdancing go-go boots, transforms into The Hourglass, while Daphne captured my heart with her transformation into The Secondhand and her Chuck Taylor tapshoes. Does it get any cooler than that? Hell no.

The rest of the evening was a series of tap dance scenes covering everything from tap dancing muggers to tap dancing street fights to tap dancing workplace skullduggery and general tap vigilante justice.

So if you’re in Chicago, check it out. If not, I feel bad. Unless you’re in New York – they’ve been invited to some theater festival out there later this year, so you can experience the same. As for me, I’ll be super-glueing some taps on my own Chuck Taylors and filling out my application for the Justice Legs of America.

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