In new comedy, a superwoman's work is never done
'What would Wonder Woman Do?"
That question inspires the comic book superheroines currently gathering at Boston Playwrights' Theatre to bare their souls and kick a few butts.
In "The Superheroine Monologues," playwrights John Kuntz and Rick Park dig into the origins of six of the most powerful characters, as well as one mere mortal, Lois Lane, who uses practically superhuman powers to capture the attention of Superman/Clark Kent. But it's Wonder Woman, the mother of all superheroines ("She fought the Nazis," the others exclaim in awe), who is held up as the ideal.
The production opens on the women-only Paradise Island led by Queen Hippolyta (Maureen Adduci) just as their world is turned upside down by the arrival of a wounded soldier. Men are considered dangerous because they "kill, rape, and get paid more for the same jobs," so the women decide to send him back where he came from. After a silly contest that includes Sarah Palin as a competitor, Hippolyta's daughter Diana (Shawna O'Brien) wins the right to escort the soldier back to the United States, and her mother gives her that signature Wonder Woman outfit, some bracelets, and the lasso of truth to help win the fight for justice and freedom.
With Wonder Woman dispatched, the other heroines are introduced: Lois Lane (Amanda Good Hennessey), Catwoman (Elizabeth Brunette), Batgirl (Melissa Baroni), Supergirl (Jackie McCoy), Storm (Cheryl D. Singleton), and Phoenix (Christine Power). At the end of the monologues, we return to a much-older Wonder Woman, now reduced to performing in Vegas, complete with dancing chorus boys.
Kuntz and Park go off on outrageously funny tangents as the superheroines explain how they became who they are, including Batgirl's obsession with the perfection of a snow globe world, Wonder Woman's difficulty remembering where she parked her invisible plane, Catwoman's explanation that her job in a knitting store kept her from meeting men, and Phoenix's revelation that her mother detested her. "My mother was the kind of woman a cannibal would spit back into her napkin," she says.
Director Greg Maraio understands that the success of these monologues depends on the strength of the actresses and he has found a terrific cast to embody these distinctly different women. Power's attitude-heavy Phoenix is a revelation, Brunette's Catwoman is purrfect, and McCoy's teen-gone-wild Supergirl is hilariously high-energy ("I mean, I have to deal with algebra, acne, and Lex Luthor," she says).
Maraio, who seems to be going for superhero status himself, has designed and created some spectacular looks for the heroines. From Batgirl's pink sparkly spandex body suit and cape lined in yellow to Storm's purple coat, these superheroines look fabulous.
Of course, behind every superheroine is a good man and occasional superhero, and Kuntz and Park leave room for some wonderful ensemble work from Terrence Haddad, Jordan Harrison, and Art Hennessey, who play a variety of roles in support of the women.
"The Superheroine Monologues" is subtitled "a parody of super proportions," but it's the sincerity with which it's delivered that gives it super power.