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
Conceived and Directed by Natsu Onoda Power
July 18, 2014 – August 16, 2014
@ the Boston Center for the Arts, Plaza Theatre
Full Price: $20-$38
Students w/ ID:
$15 Presale, $10 Rush
Pay-What-You-Can Performances ($6 min):
Sunday, July 20 & 27
BOSTON CENTER FOR THE ARTS
539 Tremont Street
South End, Boston, MA
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Box Office: Phone: 617.933.8600
Walk-up: Calderwood Pavilion at the Boston Center for the Arts,
527 Tremont St.
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264 Huntington Ave.