by Jenni Morin
The definition of hero can be very specific, but it is also broad enough to encompass a whole cast of characters. In James Venhaus’ Masquerade now playing at Overtime Theater, heroes are drag queens, comic book store owners, a comic book fan trying to figure out who he is, a girl with a sewing machine and a jerk who turns out to be a loyal friend.
Masquerade started out as a ten-minute play, but the production is now long enough to include an intermission. The first act seems like it could be a play all on its own, complete with a tableau frozen before blackout, but the second act brings to light some of the inner villains each of these heroes face.
The Red Crusader, under the darkness of scene changes, carefully plans emerging on to the superhero scene. In the meantime, there is Chuck the comic book store owner (Edward Wise), his loyal patron Reggie (Brennan Loy), the couple consisting of the friendly Virginia (Ashtyn Sonner) and her bad attitude boyfriend Jeff (Chris Kelly). In search for supplies for a perfect costumes, Chuck and Reggie befriend Kevin the drag queen (Stephan Gaeth). This leads to Chuck and Reggie unknowingly in the audience for a drag show, not a cosplay like they thought.
Most of the characters were played reserved, except for Loy’s Reggie who spiraled into a confusing identity crisis, the root of which is still unclear. The drag show was more funky than fabulous with stiffly choreographed lip-syncs and music set at near elevator volume. While Gaeth’s drag queen had her moments amongst the awkward staging, it was really the ensemble of geeks who embraced their roles—or possibly just let their real-life personalities peek through. Sonner’s Virginia shined with an unexpected monologue in the second act, which paved the way for rounding out Wise’s Chuck and Kelly’s Jeff characters, giving them an opportunity to settle into the roles. In the end, Masquerade’s cosplay, geeks and drag queens offer some great nerdy comedy.
Director Morgan Clyde should be applauded for integrating multimedia and social media elements into the production and tackling some tough issues of identity crises and homosexuality. The Overtime’s production of Masquerade proves its own point that it doesn’t take fancy equipment or an eloquently speaking man in a mask and cape to stand up for a cause or bring attention to an issue. There are different kinds of heroes who are revealed even in the most unlikely simple moments.
Masquerade plays at the Overtime Theater through May 4 with performances at 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays; 8 p.m. on Thursday, April 18 and May 2; and 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, April 14 and 7 p.m. on April 28. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit www.theovertimetheater.org.