Monday, July 21, 2014

Company One Presents "Astro Boy & The God Of Comics" by Natsu Onoda Power - A Noteworthy New England Premiere

True confession time.  When I saw that the Company One season would conclude with a new play about an anime comic hero, I was less than enthused.  Japanese anime - or manga - is not an art form I have come to appreciate very much. But Company One has never disappointed me in any of their productions that I have seen, so I put the event on my calendar.  I showed up dutifully at the Boston Center for the Arts on Saturday evening prepared to see a high quality production.  I was not prepared to be amazed and moved to the degree that Natsu Onoda Power's new play touched me.

 "Astro Boy & The God Of Comics" is a very complex and innovative telling of the career of manga icon Osamu Tezeku - referred to in Japan as "The God of Comics.".  The story of his life and career as an artist is told in reverse chronology - not unlike the movie "Memento." or the Sondheim musical "Merrily We Roll Along."  Each chapter of Tezuka's life is treated as a separate scene.  Playwright and director Natsu Onoda Power brings incredible originality to the telling of the story, using live action, models, projections, cartoons and props to propel the telling of the story forward as the chronology scrolls backward.

The projections designed and realized by Jared Mezzocchi are the most impressive I have seen as an integral part of live drama.  During the party that followed Saturday's performance, I spoke with the Playwright/Director about her very effective use of Mr. Mezzocchi's projections.  She was effusive in her praise of him and his artistry, and then she added this caveat: "One can only go so far with projection.  Some things need to be left to the imagination."  That comment triggered a strong visual image in my mind.  I saw the projections in this play as the first stage of a rocket that began to propel the mind of an audience member on a certain trajectory.  At a certain point in the journey, the first stage burns out and falls away and a second stage rocket - the individual audience member's fertile imagination - is ignited to carry the story into an orbit that matches that person's individual world view and prior experiences.

The cast members interact with the projections in fascinating ways, often cartooning on top of the animated projections.  Many of the cast are not only gifted actors but graphic artists as well.  They are:

  • Phil Berman
  • Jessica Chance
  • Gianella Flores
  • Amanda Ruggiero
  • Jeff Song
  • Robert St. Laurence
  • Kaitee Tredway
  • Clark Young
Several of the scenes feel as if they are improvisational theater sequences because they have such a vibrant sense of immediacy and wonder. One scene has the actors huddled in a mass miming an arduous journey.  The combination of group movement, individual facial expressions and sound effects and overall energy level is a marvel.

In telling the story of an artist little known in the West, Ms. Power manages to make the audience care about the man and his art.  We care, as well, about the arc of the career of his beloved creation, Astro Boy, an atomic-powered robot that exists to serve mankind.  The playwright brings home with striking pathos the irony of the atomic-powered peace warrior having been birthed in a nation so recently devastated by the destructive power of the atom.  Images of the haunting mushroom cloud have a particular poignancy.

I have only just begun to process the many thoughts, questions and emotions that this play triggered for me.  This New England Premiere of "Astro Boy" is an opportunity for Boston area audiences to experience something new and fresh and provocative.  That is how Company One rolls!  Head out to Tremont Street to experience it for yourself.   Bring a date, bring the family, bring someone who loves anime, bring someone who loves good theater!

The play will run through August 16.



Company One

A New England Premiere
Conceived and Directed by Natsu Onoda Power
July 18, 2014 – August 16, 2014
@ the Boston Center for the Arts, Plaza Theatre
Lauded for its technical and artistic genius, ASTRO BOY AND THE GOD OF COMICS serves up live animation, interactive video, and a 1960s dream of the future. Astro Boy – a crime-fighting, sweet-faced robot – and his creator, Osamu Tezuka – the real-life Father of Manga and “Walt Disney of Japan” – explore the intersections of science, art, and family. Director and Playwright Natsu Onoda Power’s high-octane, convention-breaking ASTRO BOY was called “one of the Top 3 Best Theater Experiences in 2012” by The Washington Post. 
Full Price: $20-$38
Students w/ ID:
$15 Presale, $10 Rush
Pay-What-You-Can Performances ($6 min):
Sunday, July 20 & 27

Plaza Theatre
539 Tremont Street
South End, Boston, MA

Box Office:
 Phone: 617.933.8600
Walk-up: Calderwood Pavilion at the Boston Center for the Arts,
527 Tremont St.
OR Boston University Theatre Box Office,
264 Huntington Ave.

1 comment:

Jared Mezzocchi said...

Thanks for a lovely repsonse Al! Glad you enjoyed!