Sunday, April 12, 2009

The Superheroine Monologues (April 10th thru the 26th at the Boston Playwright's Theater)

There are times when you really wanna believe in a play very badly especially a play about A-list super heroines...and after all who doesn't like Wonder Woman and Batgirl?
Well liking certain characters isn't the same as doing well by them. So I guess local writer-performers John Kuntz and Rick Park deserve kudos for at least trying to do something different and zany with a disparate group of well know comic book super heroines. I just wish the result was less labored.
It is a well worn set up, this time a bunch of super heroines, (Wonder Woman, Lois Lane, Storm from the X-Men etc etc) regale an audience with their real story, the heartbreak, the self revelations, the pain the anguish and all the usual gags about lip gloss, period piece jokes and lingering crushes on Shaun Cassidy.
The show is sad to say, wildly uneven to say the least, with Elizabeth "Catwoman" Brunette, Amanda "Lois Lane" Good-Hennessey and Shawna "Wonder Woman" O'Brien as the show's stand-out performances.
In fact, I suspect Ms. Brunette to be a successful clone of Julie Newmar...I mean the resemblance is that close and as for Ms. O'Brien if a Wonder Woman feature film ever gets off the ground, she deserves an audition she is that good.
The rest of the cast has to get by on being merely excellent in every way...too bad the writing disappoints on a irritatingly regular basis...cuz these actresses are in there punching away with gusto. In particular I'd like to do a quick shout out to Christine "Phoenix" Power and Jackie "Supergirl" McCoy who never flagged for a moment despite being saddled with some very dubious material in their monologues.
Yes indeed this is a soft-R-rated show with heavy use of lesbianism, homosexuality, mommy-daughter conflicts and OCD to sell the drama and set up the laughs. By the time poor Melissa "Batgirl" Baroni takes to the stage you can tell the writer's are playing a tangled game of "connect the Big Ticket Problem to the heroine", as a consequence the show bogs down, a lot.
This is a shame, because the show does have good quota of laughs but the need to be...relevant and or contemporary just kills things time and again. For example an attempt to orientate Catwoman's origin with the assassination of Bobby Kennedy simply imposes a tasteless graceless moment into an otherwise su-freakin' perb performance by Elizabeth Brunette.
By the time we stagger to the epilogue spotlighting an older careworn Wonder Woman (now played with panache by the Bette Davis-esque Maureen Aducci) everyone was checking their watches and shifting uncomfortably in their seats. Moralizing and gags (however funny) about the Incredible Hulk's man-junk just don't mix.
Costume roles are tough, either you bond with the costume and sell it hard or you feel like a horse's ass in your cape and boots, let the record show all these women owned it from start to finish.
I wish to stress, this was a great cast in every way, I can pay these women no higher compliment than to note that we'd love to get any of them to read at the next bad Poets Society....cuz their individual charisma came thru loud and clear. All I can say is, Cheryl Singleton, are you available in October??

And if Rick Park and John Kuntz (who have talent by reputation so I am told) are serious about this script they could easily cut the whole mishaugas down to a very tight and much funnier 75 minutes sans worry or woe.
Think on it guys, that cast you have is one in a million.


batboy432 said...

wow, couldnt disagree more! Go see this show! Hilarious and touching!

R said...

It is too bad that the blogger, while managing to disparage actors and writers by NAME, only posts under a pseudonym. Is the blogger afraid that someone might take him to task or question him the next time they see him? All other critics out there use their names, own up to their criticism, so I find this blogger to be cowardly in every sense of the word. As far as the critique of the writing, I think it may be a case of "those who can do, those who can't criticize". The Superheroine Monologues is a new play. Sure, things may need to be tightened, but if the blogger had any real knowledge of theatre, s/he would understand that new plays require an audience's reaction in order to gauge what is working. And on the night I attended, there was no one looking at their watches, no shifting in seats, no one thought the play was a failure. In fact, there was a line of people waiting to praise the piece to the playwrights, who were there.

And while I will try to not take offense to the innumerable typos in the blogger's blog (never heard of spell checking or grammar, eh?), I do take offense to the blogger's need to disparage people he has no knowledge about. S/he states that the playwrights "have talent by reputation I am told", Is the blogger NEW to the Boston theatre scene? Between the two playwrights, there are many writing awards (including a production at the Kennedy Center), Elliott Norton awards, IRNE nominations, etc etc etc. These two writers are pretty freakin' well-known in Boston theatre, so for the blogger to NOT know who they are or what they have done is just another glaring example of why taking ANYTHING this "anonymous" (i.e., wuss of a blogger who doesn't have the balls to make his or her name known in order to take responsibility for this "review") blogger says about a really fun and exciting new show to heart would be the worst mistake the reader could make. You shouldn't review what you don't understand, dear Blogger. And yes, you are, of course, entitled to your opinion on whatever plays or movies you see. But why not have the backbone to stand up and let everyone know WHO you are instead of writing a badly-punctuated, poorly-written "review" and then hide in the shadows?

As my dear departed grandmother would have said: "Grow a pair"...

Zolok said...

I'm sorry, I stand by every mis-spelled word and every crumpled bit of syntax above. The play is overlong, wildly uneven and dubious in some of it's dramatic choices. The cast ranges though from the merely excellent to stellar...that much I made clear.
As for my pseudonym, well, I don't see your damn name on the above rant...


PrincessLeia26 said...

This is the first time I've ever disagreed with a blog enough to actually make a comment. But I have to say that as a whole, I thought the play was fantastic. True, there could have been a few minor tweaks here and there, but that's to be expected of a play that has never been performed before.

The blogger seems to indicate that he/she is offended because the play tried to do something more than being just funny. To me, settling for just "different and zany" would have been a mistake. The play is equal parts humor and an exploration of women's role in society.

Zolok says that he prefers the first three characters that came on the stage. In those years (40s, 50s, 60s) women's comic characters were 2-dimensional and therefore easy to make fun of. But he seems to suggest that after that point it's a mistake to introduce more complex characters. As a woman, I find that somewhat offensive.

If anything, I think that the writers (who are two men, by the way) should be congratulated for tackling the issues in such believable ways, considering the characters they're using. In any other setting the play could have been very heavy. But, the combined efforts of great writing, great directing and a great cast create something that I can laugh at AND think about once it's over.

There's a great line early in the play where Wonder Woman says that she wants people to know that women are more than a great pair of legs. It concerns me that this reviewer implies that he would have preferred that they stay that way.

Site Owner said...

Wonder Woman: Great Hera! A mere mortal has chosen to besmirch me and my fellow sisters in the hot, fiery lead of Hephestos’ electrons known to mortal men as Movable Type! And not just any man, but an anonymous blogger known impudently as Zolok (the same name as the pet chimp of my mortal enemy Angleman – no coincidence there I’ll wager!).

Catwoman: Keep your white and blue stars in a bunch Diana! This Zolok (or whatever he’s called) said you and I had “stand out performances”) and called me “su-freakin perb” (which no one has called me since The Sandman was locked away). While he may have had issues with the writing of the show (God forbid anyone criticize someone with an Elliot Norton Award), he seemed to get the point that we kicked some soft, fluffy tail!

Storm: Hey guys! Can you please let me out of this closet?

Lois Lane: As someone who has won over 800 journalism rewards in my brief 71 year career at the Daily Planet, can I possibly mention that the Elliot Norton Award, while prestigious, has nothing on the four Pulitzer’s I won covering the Mxyzptlk Presidential campaign, or my “Red Kryptonite Gives Superman and Indestructible Beard” story?

She Hulk: Well I, as a radioactive, impossibly strong, green-skinned aerobics instructor am offended by this entire discussion. A whole play about empowered women like myself gets written, performed and reviewed, and yet not one reference to Rachel Carson (we girls need our heroines after all).

Storm: Guys, guys! It’s dark in here. This isn’t funny anymore. Let me out!

johnny said...

Well hello everyone! This is John Kuntz, co-writer of "The SuperHeroine Monologues". What an exciting conversation! Can I jump in? I was trawling thru the web, looking for stuff on the SuperGals, and I stumbled across this place. Now, I've never responded to a review before, but I think I will here, because I had some thoughts. Before I do, though, I want to say that my views are my own, and have nothing to do with C1 or The Phoenix Theatre company, or anyone else from "superheroines", who have all been lovely.

It seems that everyone with a blog considers themselves a critic these days. And that's fine. I'm actually glad that people are writing about theatre. More people should do so, I wish they would! And as the newspapers die a slow death, I think that blog criticism is the wave of the future, and a lot of them are really good, and I LOVE that people write and respond, which seems a new(ish) thing, too.

But frankly, this blog is rather sad. I've been eviscerated by every critic in town over the years at one time or another, it's part of the job and I have skin thicker than a football by now, so the negative words don't get to me so much. What gets to me is how sloppy and shallow this enterprise is. It's really just disrespectful to theatre in general. There was no evident time or thought put into ANYTHING I have read on this site. Artists spend months, sometimes years, putting together a piece of theatre and this superficial, uninteresting, thoughtless, mean-spirited crap: THIS is the response? It's really insulting.

Also: while I certainly didn't enjoy my harsh reviews over the years, the difference here is that at least I knew WHO my critics WERE. They had names and faces. It gave them a modicum of credibility, even when I didn't agree with them, or think them a great critic. They stood behind what they wrote. Actors and playwrights and directors are putting themselves out there in incredibly vulnerable ways. Shouldn't critics feel compelled to do the same? Is anyone going to trust a "critic" who masquerades under some stupid nickname that sounds like the imperious evil leader from some distant planet inhabited by morons? Listen Zoloft, or whatever your name is: It's SO easy to anonymously trash another writers' work: it's called being a coward and a bitch.

Also, critics should be required to know how to write. And spell. And think. I mean, dude, really: is this the best you can do? You can't string a sentence together, much less a thought, and you're commenting on MY lack of writing skills? To confirm my fears, I read your previous, rather embarrassing critiques of "Milk" and "Coriolanus". I wish I could get those 20 seconds of my life back. What, exactly is this blog "notorious" for? Laziness? Typos? Having two brain cells?

I hope anyone reading this will come and check out the show and form their own opinions. We're a small struggling company, NO ONE is being paid for their work, and we're donating proceeds to a local women's shelter. It's a really great show and the actors do kick ass, which is the only thing Zotar got right (though s/he failed to even mention the amazing direction/costumes/scenery and the three great male actors playing multiple parts). So come check it out, and tell Zolok to go rain on their own parade. We have an industry show on Wednesday (tomorrow!), and tix are a mere 10 dollars!
Peace out,
John Kuntz

Zolok said...

Geez guys was it something I said? I hardly think the above post constitutes "evisceration" in any form.
Lord...relax, siddown, have a drink before sundown or something. Why are you blowing your stacks like this? By your own admission you've taken worse shots from bigger players.
Frankly much as the anonymity and obscurity of this blog has been mocked and vilified, I think you find it empowering.
Certainly if the above post was reconstituted as a signed review in the Boston Phoenix or the Globe you wouldn't dare vent in this hostile fashion.
Maybe thats the problem, you are stressed and need to lash out, and alas, my poor obscure, unspell checked blog provides the perfect venue.

For ghod sakes, chill willya? Anger is an addiction so I read.


johnny said...

You've totally missed the point, Zarex. The point is not whether you "eviscerated" me or not (and no, I don't think you did. I've had far worse reviews, believe me.) My point is that IF the review were to be SIGNED by a real person, you would (in theory, anyway) need to take the time to be more thoughtful, press "spell check", express yourself in a more coherent fashion, etc (though not necessarily a positive one). It's called having integrity. You cowardly opted out of that method, and you believe you can say whatever you please in a slothful fashion without any fear of comeuppance.

But I feel that if you are going to be anonymous (and totally lazy and mean-spirited to boot), then I have the right to respond to and disagree with what you write. That is the price you have tacitly agreed to pay in order to remain in the dark.

Again, it is not your opinions with which I have issue. It's subjective. You can say whatever you want. It is your anonymity coupled with your indolent technique that pisses me off.

John Kuntz

Zolok said...

What Diana Prince can have a secret identity and I can't?

Look IF I passed remedial grammar and IF I signed the review THEN somehow your fury would be abated?
THEN I wouldn't be a coward etc etc?
Based on your disporportionate rage directed at an obscure post in a otherwise rarely noticed blog...I have my doubts. Frankly the pseudonym is looking like a good call at this point.


Site Owner said...

My first instinct in situations like this is to turn a blogger brushfire into a full-fledged flame war (something I'm still happy to do, if necessary).

But re-reading my old friend Zolok's original review, it occurred to me that his post basically says that given the show's strong concept and very strong cast, he was disappointed in the writing and execution. While I'm sure this is not what the show's writers and directors like to hear, I would have thought the comments of someone who cared enough to not just see this production, but to put time into reviewing it would be more welcome (he is, after all, a legitimate member of the audience I would presume you were trying to satisfy).

Now I have not seen Superheroine Monologues, and it may very well be that this is the greatest thing that's happened to theater since the opening night of Othello. But just in case, you might want to listen to the voice of at least one audience member who is willing to provide something just as important as praise for the effort we all appreciate must go into a theatrical production: i.e., a valid description of what could still be done to make it better.

As a final note regarding anonymity, when last I checked the number of bloggers in the universe now runs into the tens of millions, most of whom do their blogging with some level of anonymity. Now it may be that everyone of these nameless writers who dares criticize anything from the last Hollywood blockbuster to the government of George Bush is a cowardly cretin for not putting their actual name to their work.

Or it may be that some of us blog privately for other reasons. These might include a desire to keep our passions autonomous from our private (or public life, or a interest in casual (rather than polished) writing on an interest of the day (in contrast to more professional writing, like stuff I've written with Zolok in the Phoenix, Globe and other publications over the years).

And then there is the possibility that some of us like the notion of a secret identity, something I would have thought the writers of a play called the Superheroine Monologues would especially appreciate.

johnny said...

Dear Zenobio and “Site Owner”:

Wow! Now there’s TWO anonymous assholes banding together to preserve the rights of bloggers everywhere. And apparently, I’m supposed to be flattered at your attention. And grateful that it’s not a “full-fledged flame war”, whatever the hell that is. Give me a fucking break.

My point is this, guys: if you are criticizing me, you need to have a name. Period.

Your argument, “Site Owner”, that Zitzot is a “legitimate member of the audience” doesn’t work. Because I don’t know that. NO ONE DOES. He or she could be anything BUT that, for all I know. They could have personal agendas and conflicts of interest. They could make slandering statements. They could be my old boyfriend that I dumped in college. How, exactly, do I know this is a “valid description” of the production when I don’t know where it’s coming from?
If the identity of the critic is KNOWN, all those questions are answered, or can/may be answered, and there’s the difference.

If you need to be anonymous to be a theatre critic (and I don’t give a FUCK what the reason may be) than you can’t be a theatre critic. If you don’t put your name on your work, you will invite wrath like mine.
End of story.
So write about puppies, Zotbor. Don’t be trashing other people who actually have the balls to put their names on what they create while you sit in the dark and whack off all over them in your stupid blog.

Also: You both keep trying to downplay this event: it’s an “obscure post” in a “rarely noticed blog”; I should "calm down" and “have a drink”. Apparently I wasn’t supposed to take it seriously when Zitherhead trashed my writing. If that’s true then why did s/he write it in the first place? Or fail to sign their name on it?

Let me put my “disproportionate rage” into perspective for you both: I DO THIS FOR A LIVING. It’s my business. It’s not a HOBBY for me. I've studied it, I teach it, I'm passionate about it and I take even a silly campy show like this one seriously. So forgive me if I don’t think this is all a great big fucking joke.
We've been working on the show, off and on, for almost a year. A lot of people have put money and time and energy into the project, and you both lazily sit there, UNKNOWN, and ham-fistedly trash it without thought or regard or even an interesting point of view. And then you, “Site Owner”, have the NERVE to defend the practice. Go fuck yourselves. For writers (and I’m using the term loosely here) to do that to another writer is truly disgusting. So please don't further insult me by telling me to "chill".

And yes, Zartan, if you put your name on your review and stood by your words and didn’t try to hide in the shadows and then downplay it when someone dares to question your motives and practices, then yes: it would make a difference, and I wouldn't be writing this at all.

If you can’t understand that, you are both truly idiots.

John Kuntz

PS This is my last post on the subject. You're welcome for giving your readers something interesting, legible and SIGNED to read.

Zolok said...

Well, if anonymity is the excuse you've seized on to violently dismiss the review, then so be it. I can't force you to read it or reflect on it. Freedom of speech doesn't guarantee freedom of audience...didn't Pat Paulsen say that?
My pseudonym isn't the issue here, you hate the review plain and simple.
Fair enough...
You could have passed by such an obscure blog in silence instead you choose to engage and then over-react and then run thru the whole Anglo-Saxon expletive lexicon in the process.
Honestly, step back from the keyboard relax, the above review hardly touched you in any way. I praised the cast and said the script needed some work, and again, I stand by that whether you think I am worthy to join the ranks of critics or not.
I seem to have hurt your feelings though, that much I regret, my apologies if egos have been bruised.
However the review stands as the best summary of my reactions to play...that I will not take back.



Site Owner said...

Fear not. If this were the “full-fledged flame war” you dismiss, I might be forced to point out the irony of your showering an Internet blogger with a mix of incoherence and expletives (sounding like nothing so much as a deranged 8th grade graffitist) all because he (and, apparently, I) do not immediately hail you as the greatest writer of our age.

Or I could point out the further irony of someone declaring anyone who crosses him a gutless coward, and then picking up their ball and running off. But my better instincts have prevailed, preventing me from saying either of those non-complimentary things in the interest of peace and harmony on this wild and crazy place we call the World Wide Web.

Now I suppose that my old pal Zolok might actually be an old enemy of yours (a jilted lover, an actor you turned down for a role, that guy you didn’t choose in 3rd grade when sides were being picked for kickball). And that this clever bastard started blogging in 2004, writing hundreds of entries in various blogs over the last five years, all because he knew that one day he would have his revenge because you were sure to write a play someday that he could dis. And that to execute his plan, he actually didn’t even see the play (thus denying you his admission money) but managed to glean enough about the script and all the performances to write an unfavorable review. And that to throw you off the track, he actually pointed out a number of good things about the show (only to make you feel worse about his invented criticisms of your script).

All that is possible, but it is just as likely that Zolok is actually Bizarro John Kuntz, an accident resulting from the misuse of Lex Luther’s defective duplication ray, and that Zolok/Bizarro JK thinks he is paying you the highest compliment by pointing out the flaws in your work.

More likely, however, is that he is simply someone who wanted to see your play, paid good money to see it, sat through the show and has the temerity to say something about it that is not entirely flattering. Honestly, does anyone but me sense a certain snobbishness about this whole series of tirades? “Who do you think you are, you anonymous blogging person you, daring to say anything unkind about I, the Master Thespian!” seems to be what I’m hearing, all because this blogger mentioned that he found a gap between your shows concept and cast (which he liked) and the execution (which he like less, but clearly didn’t hate).

I’ve seen a lot of shows in my time (although probably less than you), some good, some bad and some incomprehensible (like the Midsummer Night’s Dream I saw that was set entirely in a big puddle of mud). All of these had one thing in common: they all involved a great deal of hard work by lots of dedicated people, putting in thankless hours for little pay. But does that mean it’s egregiously unfair to declare one show better than another? Hard work lies behind any theatrical production (indeed, any human activity of any worth), and it’s something you and your team should be justly proud of. But it’s not something you throw in the face of a critic (friendly or unfriendly) to get them to shut up (any more than I should rage on you for any critique of my posting, even though I did put a good 15 minutes into it).

Oh my, has it been 15 minutes already? Time to sign off and finish my day job of crushing the heads of unwanted newborn kittens.



VideoNitekatt said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
johnny said...

Oh well. So much for that being my "last post", but I really need to respond here.

Listen boys, it's really fun playing with you, but it's time for you both to stop. I'm not running off with the ball. I just don't have the time to repeat myself, over and over, because you didn't get it the first time. You don't have an argument here, no matter how hard you try to twist my words around.
This isn't about snobbery (I don't even know WHERE that charge is coming from. The first thing I said was that I WANT more bloggers to write about theatre) or me being "incoherent" (really, when was I ever incoherent? But then again, given the content of this blog, I'm beginning to think that neither of you know the meaning of the word) or about me wanting a more positive review. (It's not that I want you to CHANGE your opinion, Zolot. It's that I don't RESPECT your opinion. That's a big difference.)

And the reason I don't respect it is because (and listen carefully now, because I'm repeating myself, since neither you seem to get this) your review was :
1. Anonymous
2. Poorly written and
3. Mean-spirited

Now, to be fair,

1. IF the review had been kinder, I might not have noticed or cared. I'll admit that's true. I have feelings. I'm not a cyborg.
2. IF the review had been SIGNED I might never had responded. (I know a lot of critics MUCH more lazy and nastier than either of you, but god love them, they sign their names to their work, and I leave them alone, because there is a name attached to their opinion, however I might disagree with it.)
3. IF the review had shown even an IOTA of thought or professionalism (ie, no typos, misspellings, missing words, etc) then I probably would have left you alone as well.

But it was the lethal combo of those three elements that set me off, and I think that's really important for you both to understand.

This isn't about me whining that I worked hard, and therefore I deserve a good review, Jon-Jon. It's that I expect my critics to put the same amount of time and energy into their reviews as I do into MY work. At the very least, you need to re-read, correct and edit them. Seriously, look at that review: typos, misspellings, sentences that don't make sense.
IT'S POORLY WRITTEN. And that's insulting to me, especially when he's commenting on MY writing.
And finally: for a writer to lambast another writer and then not SIGN their review is a CLEAR conflict of interests. It just is. You can't do it. Period. No argument. So stop trying to whirl around and change the subject and make this about something else.

John Kuntz

Zolok said...

Sorry, I am gonna have to repeat myself one more time as well.
I stand by what I wrote.
Now as to the specific charges:
1. Anonymous
I have a first amendment right, anonymous or not. Given the angry tone of this thread, what started out as an accidental pseudonym long ago is starting to look like a good call on my part.

2. Poorly written
What can I say? I went to parochial school for twelve years if I can't write it is Jesus' fault.

3. Mean-spirited
I did nothing but praise the cast (and I guess by inference the director) I had issues with the writing, but there no problems there that can't be fixed. If you choose to think otherwise well, so be it. I don't think that constitutes being lambasted...but that is only my opinion after all.
I again apologize for any hurt feelings in this process, but my opinion stands poorly written though it may be, it was not intended to be mean spirited.
I didn't write this post to gain your respect I just put my thoughts out there and boom instant flame war.

We are repeating ourselves to no good end here.


Site Owner said...

John – We will simply need to part ways with regard to attitudes towards two items inherent to blogging: anonymity and casual writing (which can include typographical errors). I tend to read a number of blogs on a wide range of subjects, all of which I evaluate by the quality of their content and ideas. True, if the writer’s not put time into polishing his or her prose, I will take that into consideration, but I also recognize when I’m dealing with someone’s (including Zolok’s, mine or your’s) quick reflection vs. a well-baked essay.

Regarding anonymity, it makes very little difference to me if I’m reading someone who uses a handle, vs. someone who uses a real name I’ve never heard of. If their work stinks or soars, I am free to evaluate it based on writing and thinking quality alone (which has freed the blogosphere from some of the celebrity-driven journalism that has helped bring the mainstream media to the crisis it now faces).

It’s a pity you’ve chosen to go this route with an audience member who seems to have a desire to see your work succeed. Zolok and I have talked before about artistic attempts (successful and unsuccessful) to make the comic world relevant to more sophisticated audiences. In fact, when my son (now nine) took to wearing a cape beneath his shirt five years ago, it inspired me to reflect on the superhero genre as being one of the few places where chivalry is still taught to be axiomatic with strength (

This is just one example of people thinking through the themes you seem to be exploring in Superheroine Monologues (more important examples being the post-modern work of comic artists like Moore, or the recent spate of novels – some good, some not so good – featuring superheroes dealing with real-world issues).

As far as I can tell, Zolok’s review seemed to be criticizing the play for possibly taking a shortcut to seriousness by pairing the ridiculous (women in tights) and the earnest (sexuality, political assassination, etc.) in hope that this would automatically confer dramatic weight. He also found that some of the slapstick (drag, references to the Hulk’s penis) were out of place with the serious themes you were trying to develop.

Now this is just one audience member’s opinion and given that I’ve not even seen the play you have even less reason to take my opinion on it seriously than you do my friend’s. But given that it is still within your power to make changes to the show, it seems to me that criticism like the ones described in the blog posting that started this whole debate off would be worth considering, even if it was delivered with a few out-of-place commas. After all, if a lawyer told you that DC and Marvel will be coming down on your ass in five days unless you change two costumes, I suspect you’d take that advice seriously (even if the attorney wrote you anonymously and misspelled your name).

Final thoughts. God Speed.