Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Review: An Animation Explosion for the Stage

In a world where colorful heroes and evil villains roam free in a pixelated landscape comes a champion like no other. And her name is Kapow-i GoGo. And the title character inspired a full-throttle episodic whirlwind of amusement. With an original run at The Flea’s Serials late night theater competition, Kapow-i GoGo is back and ready for battle at The PIT.
The wild mind of Matt Cox has concocted a colorful and whimsical world that is reminiscent of the anime, video games, and cartoons you grew up on. Cox’s Kapow-i GoGo could rival any of its influences and predecessors. In the first of three parts, Kapow-i’s epic adventure leads her to the Ultimate Warrior Tournament. On her journey, she encounters a wise yet blind drunken sage, a pair of bumbling trouble makers, her greatest foe and rival, a forest of emerald-loving creatures, a power thirsty commander, and most importantly, love. Borrowing inspiration and inside jokes from an assortment of sources, Kapow-i GoGo is a live action adventure you never knew you wanted but glad you experienced.
photo courtesy of Anya Gibian
To bring Cox’s world to life, an eager and gifted team of actors were up for the risk of going big or going home. Fortunately, the risk was well worth it. The cohesive ensemble was filled with strength and hilarity. As the titular character, Madeleine Bundy channeled her inner child and gave Kapow-i animation. From her brilliant voice work to her fine timing, Bundy was the living version of a cartoon character. As the sage and drunk Master Masterwhiskeys, Hank Lin made physical comedy look easy. Lin, who bounced and threw himself around like an animated animal, strategically made his character loveable and laughable. Michael Axelrod as Kapow-i’s youthful-but-not bratty brother Hicc-up was stellar at getting under everyone’s skin yet somehow managed to make you want more. The tandem that comprised Team Trouble, scribe Matt Cox and Karsten Otto, had amazing chemistry. They each gave their respective counterpart a unique silly voice and still managed to be unified. Their bits were some of the funniest, garnering the biggest laughs. On the other side of evil, Stephen Stout and Colin Waitt as General President Red and Colonel Vice President Thunderbolt defined dastardly villain. Stout and Waitt channeled the idiocy of Lord Dark Helmet and anxiety of Colonel Sandurz respectively (that’s a “Spaceballs” reference) as their inspiration and it worked. Keola Simpson as a trio of characters brought a different style to his approach yet his dead-pan comedy still fit in this over-the-top world. As Tuxedo Gary, Evan Maltby sported one of those ghastly tuxedo t-shirts and an effortlessly giant personality. His big character was Tuxedo Gary, but his appearances as an assortment of cardboard cutouts were well worth while. Tara Pacheco took on the damsel role and the object of Kapow-i’s newfound stirrings. Pacheco’s Twig was strong, but like Maltby, it was the cardboard cutout moments that brought the funny. Toward the end of the episode, Jeff Ronan played a small part as King Cloudberry but it was worth the wait. Ronan and his cloud and turtle shell brought sweetness to his aged rule keeper. With such a strong cast, finding room to shine can be difficult, yet Cristina Pitter and Andy Miller gave standout performances in their various roles. Pitter doubled as darling Aunt O’Wynn and the wickedly evil Xar Xar Zuu, two drastically polar characters. Pitter went all out with each character, one getting a blood bath and the other wearing very little. Andy Miller, the cast MVP, got to play in the cardboard cutout world as well but it was her mobile item store Woogli and speech-impediment Treeleaf that stole the show. Miller was versatile and made these minor characters major. Though I don’t know what will happen to Treeleaf, cross your fingers that Treeleaf gets a spinoff series.
photo courtesy of Anya Gibian
It was clear the team did an immense amount of research of cartoon-watching and video game-playing as the physicality of the actors was comparable and calculated. Co-directors Kristin McCarthy Parker and Joel Soren made the material explode on the stage in all the right ways. The staging was seamless. The overall design from lights, costumes, and props was colorful, simple, and outrageous. After seeing this show, don’t ever mock the wonders of cardboard and duct tape.
Kapow-i GoGo is all fun and games but hidden deep inside is insight, wisdom, and a great message. And that marks the sign of a true champion. Kapow-i GoGo has a long, bright future. If you missed Part 1, still go check out Parts 2 and 3. I’m sure if you ask Matt Cox nicely he’ll give you a one-man show version of Part 1 to catch you up.


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