Although the plays “I am Not Batman” and “Death Comes to Us All, Mary Agnes” are paired in the Studio Theatre, they make an odd couple.
“Batman,” written by Marco Ramirez and directed by junior Neil Phelps, is a compelling monologue that tells the story of a teenager, sophomore Martin Munoz, trying to come to terms with his poverty and powerlessness by imagining a life where he is the caped crusader.
“Mary Agnes,” written by Christopher Durang and directed by sophomore Rebecca Gonshak, tells the story of a family gathering to witness the death of their patriarch. Although the story is dramatic, it is really a framework for an irreverently hyperbolic take on the relations between the family and the household.
“Batman” finds its strength in the unnamed protagonist’s vulnerability which is acutely obvious in his imagined adventures. The boy dreams of holding the respect of his community and protecting the people he loves — and it just about breaks him.
All of the boy’s pain and hope is underscored by the drummer, Alex Lindgren ’12. The drums underscore the monologue by matching its tempo and tone, but it goes even further, illustrating the stories as the boy tells. The effect is subtle but strengthens the play greatly.
The drum kit is cobbled together from cymbals, drums and trash cans, a pillow and other things that make it seem like the set sprang from the streets themselves.
The play is short but sweet, and after the final drum is hit, the audience is left better for watching the story of a boy trying to cope in the world into which he has been born.
“Death Comes to Us All, Mary Agnes” is a seemingly lighter play than “Batman,” and unlike its partner, it boasts a large cast of characters (not many Studio Theatre shows have 11 actors) who all come equipped with their own neuroses and needs.
Each character, from the incestuous twins to their narcissistic mother and their crazy grandmother (who might still just be faking it after all these years) is beautifully overblown. However, hiding under the surface is a level of pain that resonates beneath the humor.
“Mary Agnes” is a much longer play than “Batman,” which is its real weakness. The actors all perform well. There are some great moments of humor and there is real depth under the play’s slick veneer. However, the play also has long lulls, suppressing the audience’s desire for forward motion.
This is not a fault of the cast or crew, necessarily, but possibly of a script that tries to find a thread in its own scenes, but never quite pulls it through.
“I am Not Batman” and “Death Comes to Us All, Mary Agnes” will have their second and final performance in the Studio Theatre Saturday, Oct. 6 from 7:30 to 9:00 p.m.