BWW Review: EVIL IN JUSTICEBERG - Funny, Experimental Superhero Show

Obsidian Art Space's resident theatre company, Big Head Productions, is bringing a fanciful little niche show to Houston audiences in their production of Crash Buist's EVIL IN JUSTICEBERG. This new comic book themed play is filled with laughs and spandex. Audiences looking for zany fun are in for a treat if they venture to Obsidian Art Space during this run.

The campy play pays homage to the superhero television shows of yesteryear, like Batman starring Adam West. It introduces audiences to Captain Justice, Justiceberg's leading hero. At the top of the show, he and his trusty sidekick, Justice Lad, are being honored for their successful capture of Evil Von Evilstein. Meanwhile, Evil Von Evilstein has been put in jail with one incompetent guard to keep watch. Of course, he easily breaks out with the aide of his henchman, Sinister Boy. Together they capture Lady Legality, Captain Justice's love interest, making Captain Justice and Justice Lad spring into heroic action!

Crash Buist's writing vacillates between clever absurdity and banal sophomoric humor. No matter your taste of adult comedy, his writing will find a way to make you laugh. For me, the largest problem is that the show manages to drag despite the hour and half runtime, which includes a brief intermission. The conceit is clear and well developed early on; yet, the writing gets a little belabored in its repeated expounding on the altogether fun and enjoyable concept. I feel that with some slight shaving, this show could be a solid one act that never lets the audience come up for air as they riotously laugh from beginning to end. With that said, I must say that when the writing becomes Shakespearean in tonality and line delivery it is absolutely brilliant. The parodies of HAMLET and ROMEO AND JULIET for the romantic subplot are absolutely inspired!

Leighza Walker's direction is crisp and clean, guaranteeing that every laugh line and sight gag works beautifully in the intimate performance space. She does the best with pacing that the script allows. The audience never gets bored in the slower parts, as she has guided her cast to maintain vibrant characterizations that easily entertain the whole show.

Tom Stell stars as Captain Justice, stealing the scene every time he is on stage. His stereotypic hero voice (think Nathan Fillion's Captain Hammer from 2008's DR. HORRIBLE'S SING-ALONG BLOG) is perfectly constructed and utilized for humorous effect time and time again. Furthermore, he is so conceited that his Achilles' Heel is someone touching his hair, which is played to humorous affect as well.

As Justice Lad, Karen Schlag brings fun life to the woman disguised as a male super sidekick persona. She is devastatingly hilarious in her deliveries of the Shakespearean inspired dialogue she is given.

Robert Meza's Sinister Boy adequately steals the spotlight whenever it is appropriate. His deft comic timing elicits numerous laughs from the audience. Like Karen Schlag, he slays us with his Shakespearean dialogue too. As a side note, this play is almost an origin story for his character, which left me hoping a sequel is in the works.

Evil Von Evilstein, portrayed by Jon Harvey, is the quintessential mad scientist and archnemesis villain stereotype. He has a strong and mesmerizing evil laugh and he perfectly creates the screwball scoundrel the show deserves and asks for. There is not one aspect of his characterization that audiences won't love.

Autumn Woods is sultry as Lady Legality. She plays the clichéd and objectified femme fatale with skill, slinking around stage and showing off her curves and long legs.

Ryan Kelly is hilarious as the Narrator and many other characters. He pops in and out of the action like a geeky fanboy who is all too excited to share this unknown yet completely familiar story with the audience.

Josh Baker's Lighting Design is simplistic. The cast is well lit the entire time. Colors are used sparingly to highlight mood. A special strobe effect is well utilized in the climatic battle.

Larin Pascal's Sound Design incorporates ambient noises well, for example she has used cheering people for the opening of the show. She deserves kudos for finding and collecting an entertaining mix of superhero music for pre-show and intermission entertainment.

Leighza Walker's Set Design is simple but fascinating. The backdrop is a city skyline with comic inspired text bubbles above it. Then she has crafted a few pieces that roll on and off to fill in necessary gaps in audience imagination when needed.

Costuming is fantastic too. The skintight golden bodysuits worn by the heroes are funky and amusing. Moreover, they have been accented well. The villains wear blacks with accents too. The costuming perfectly captures the iconic look of comic book heroes and villains.

When programming, Big Head Production's only does what they want to do. This is a trait that Houston audiences should be very appreciative of. It allows artists great opportunities to try out experimental works that are deserving of audiences. If you're in the mood for something different, wacky, and funny then I'd suggest you check out EVIL IN JUSTICEBERG. It's not a perfect production, but the talent and hard work put into the show will ensure that you enjoy yourself.

EVIL IN JUSTICEBERG runs at Obsidian Art Space at 3522 White Oak Boulevard, Houston, TX through March 23, 2013. For more information and tickets, please visit http://obsidianartspace.org/evil-in-justiceberg.html.

Photos courtesy of Big Head Productions.


L to R: Jon Harvey as Evil Von Evilstein, Robert Meza as Sinister Boy, Ryan Kelly as Narrator, Karen Schlag as Justice Lad, Tom Stell as Captain Jusitce & Autumn Woods as Lady Legality. Photo by Ryan Kelly.


L to R: Autumn Woods as Lady Legality, Robert Meza as Justice Boy, Jon Harvey as Evil Von Evilstein & Tom Stell as Captain Justice. Photo by Leighza Walker.


Autumn Woods as Lady Legality & Tom Stell as Captain Justice. Photo by Leighza Walker.


L to R: Robert Meza as Sinister Boy, Jon Harvey as Evil Von Evilstein, Autumn Woods as Lady Legality & Tom Stell as Captain Justice. Photo by Leighza Walker.


L to R: Robert Meza as Sinister Boy, Karen Schlag as Justice Lad & Autumn Woods as Lady Legality. Photo by Leighza Walker.


L to R: Robert Meza as Sinister Boy, Jon Harvey as Evil Von Evilstein, Autumn Woods as Lady Legality & Tom Stell as Captain Justice. Photo by Leighza Walker.



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From This Author David Clarke