BWW Review: Copious Love's CODENAME: KANSAS, WITCH HUNTER a Knockout
When I was young, my father told me about when his father saw The Wizard of Oz for the first time on the big screen, and how, for the first time, he, as a young boy, saw a cinematic world unfold before his eyes in technicolor. That awe, that feeling of being completely dazzled and hypnotized by something so visually stunning and new was how I felt when I saw Copious Love's CODENAME: KANSAS, Witch Hunter.
In the post-post apocalypse, one of the few remaining humans embarks on a quest, Kansas is sent on a mission to recover the sentient A.I. program called OZ to restore balance between four witches-South, Glenada, East, and Elfesto-all with the hopes to avenge the death of her master.
Imagine jumping into a video game for an hour and ten minutes. Collaborating with fifteen artists from the Academy of Interactive Entertainment, Director L. Nicol Cabe created and choreographed an immersive audiovisual experience. Every laser beam, every sonic boom, every gun ray was perfectly coordinated with the movements of the actors. Props to Tom Dewey for the outstanding fight choreography.
This is the kind of theatre I love. It is totally immersive, genre-bending, high-tech, and never takes itself too seriously. CODENAME: KANSAS, Witch Hunter had the grit of a Mad Max-esque post apocalypse, but the gratuitous violence and crass language of an Adult Swim cartoon. The dialogue was loud and rife with sexual innuendo that made me snicker like I was a preteen. At points, the plot seemed a bit jumpy, but so do most plotlines in video games. When you play video games, the plot ultimately is secondary to the visual effects and 360-roundhouse kicking your opponent in face.
Behold, the next generation of The Wizard of Oz: the scarecrow is a faithful, loveable numbskull dog robot named Strong Man (played by Richard Sean Glen); the tin man, a deeply heartbroken tin ninja, and our Dorothy is a scrappy, kick-butt warrior transported into a new world by her time-traveling ruby combat boots. Production and Technical Director Tony Gavilanes truly slammed on the virtual reality helmet over every audience members' heads with the coolest digital projections I have ever seen at the theatre. Each of the dozen or so unique back drop had the dimension and detail comparable to the most highly-accredited video games. The costumes by Allegra Rege had the flare and luminescence of Street Fighter characters, many of which had lights adhered to their head pieces. I found myself especially drawn to Glenada's post-modern, seapunk outfit, wanting it for myself to sport next Halloween.
Madeline Noonan's Kansas never ceased in comic intensity and scrappiness. Tom Dewey seduces both Kansas and the audience as the blundered, brawny Tin Ronin. Nathaniel Lesson is deliciously evil as the red-lipped bad witch Elfesto. Sharmona Mitchell's portrayal of the shut in, tech-savvy Leo is a fun, tongue-in-cheek interpretation of the modern "nerd," her companion fittingly a cat-human hybrid named Sly (hysterically portrayed by Amy Korver).
The added bonus is if audience goers, like I, were itching to play the online game version of the play, Copious Love provides that awesome opportunity on their website.
I give Copious Love's CODENAME: KANSAS, Witch Hunter 4.5/5 stars.
CODENAME: KANSAS, Witch Hunter performs at 12th Avenue Arts through November 21st, 2015. For tickets and information, visit www.codenamekansas.com.