Spirits to Enforce, directed by Jeff Storer and onstage now at Manbites Dog Theater, has kind of a crazy premise: a group of superheroes is living underwater and desperately trying to solicit donations so they can put on a production of The Tempest. For most of the ninety minute play, viewers watch as these superheroes sit at their tiny spaces and (mostly unsuccessfully) attempt to get donations, sometimes even going so far as to reveal their superhero identities in a bid to get the cash.
There are quite a few characters/superheroes to watch, and dialogue comes rapid-fire, with some lines even overlapping the others. Occasionally, one of the characters will launch into a longer monologue, and those who listen closely will slowly but surely hear the play’s underlying musings about the value of theater and the difficulties associated with putting on a “good show” emerge.
And, while those musings are certainly worth hearing, it takes so much work to get to them that the end result isn’t very satisfying. The rapid-shot style dialogue is hard to pay attention to for long, and the lack of movement onstage causes even the strongest attention span to waver.
Those willing to “stick it out,” however, are rewarded with some very fine performances. Thaddeus Edwards is both melancholy and hopeful in his portrayal of Ariel, while Jessica Fleming is fun and slightly neurotic as Memory Lass/Miranda. The always on-point Derrick Ivey entertains as a crazed Antonio. These colorful characters and what they have to say is definitely memorable, but the all-over-the-place script makes the story hard to follow and will put off many viewers. Those who commit to the play, however, will find a well-thought out and daring story that’s unlike anything they’ve ever seen before.
Manbites Dog Theater presents SPIRITS TO ENFORCE at 8:15 p.m. May 1-3, 2 p.m. May 4, and 8:15 p.m. May 7-10 at 703 Foster St., Durham, North Carolina 27701.
TICKETS: $12 weeknights and $18 Friday-Sunday, with a $2 discount for seniors 62+ and active-duty military personal and $5 Student Rush Tickets.
BOX OFFICE: 919-682-3343 or https://manbites.tixato.com/buy.
SHOW: http://manbitesdogtheater.org/2013-14-season/spirits-to-enforce/ and https://www.facebook.com/events/742443335786367/.
VIDEO PREVIEW (by Jon Haas): http://vimeo.com/91686542.
PRESENTER/VENUE: , https://www.facebook.com/manbitestheater, and https://twitter.com/ManbitesTheater.
BLOG (The Upstager): http://theupstager.wordpress.com/.
Mickle Maher (Chicago playwright): http://theateroobleck.com/bios/mickle-maher (Theater Oobleck bio).
Jeff Storer (director and Manbites Dog’s artistic director): http://theaterstudies.duke.edu/people?Gurl=&Uil=1723&subpage=profile (Duke Theater Studies bio).
EDITOR’S NOTE: Susie Potter is a Raleigh, NC-based freelance writer and editor. She is a 2009 graduate of Raleigh’s Meredith College, where she majored in English. She holds graduate degrees in teaching and American literature from North Carolina State University in Raleigh. In addition to her work for Triangle Arts and Entertainment, she is an award-winning author of short fiction. Her works have appeared in The Colton Review, Raleigh Quarterly, Broken Plate Magazine, Big Muddy: A Journal of the Mississippi River Valley, the Chaffey Review, and Existere. To read all of Susie Potter’s Triangle Arts and Entertainment articles and reviews, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/author/susie-q/. To read more of her writings, click http://www.susiepotter.com and http://www.myspace.com/susiepotter.