Dad’s Garage is an established benchmark in Atlanta’s comedy landscape. Unique for a comedy venue, it is the only place in the country which provides both world-class improvisation and actual theatrical plays. This week, Dad’s Garage premiered its geekiest play ever, The Super Villain Monologues. And yes, it is pretty much what it sounds like, twenty-one individual monologues covering the sad, the magnificent, the hopeful and the perverse of the super villain world.
Super Villain Monologues, (“SVM”), features the small, but experienced cast of Lucky Yates, Christian Danley and Allison Hastings. Directed by Kevin Gilese and Jason VonHinezmeyer, it brings to the stage the works of several outstanding Atlanta comedy writers: Austin Grossman, Graham Wagner and Mike Balazo (writing as a team), Linnea Frye, and Kurt Smeaton join Yates, Danley, and Gilese.
Artist, Travis Overstreet produced a number of oversized placards in the manor of vaudeville. These cards were often used as props in the skits, but also allowed the audience to know the name of each skit so as to set the mood and scene. The cards were a great device that unified all twenty-one sketches, in which villain after villain come to the stage to explain their hilarious side of the hero-villain equation.
Allison Hasting brought out the evil in the fairer sex. The Murderess threatens to kill the world with her secret weapon: murder. Medusa tries to find comfort in therapy. Eve explains she was the first villain because she chose disobedience simply to get out of the boring garden. Hastings also had the audience in stitches with a reading of “The Taking Tree,” the over-sized book of revenge against the human race by an irate oak.
Anyone who has been to Dad’s Garage is aware of the improv genius of Christian Danley and Lucky Yates. Taking turns creating characters, these two performers brought to life a myriad of characters, some of whom were puppets. From Killbot 500 (500 equals the number of millions he has killed), to the Moon (willing to destroy earth just to check out Brooklyn’s hipster scene), the Black Knight (White Knights be like this, but Black Knights be like that), Rockman (declaring for gay marriage because there are no rock-women), to the Evil Unicorn and The Hamburglar, puppets dominate much of the evening.
There is comedy gold in Danley’s performances. I was nearly apoplectic at his take on the supervillian who turns into not one bear, not even two bears, not even a dozen…but100 bears. It’s enough, he says, that you will not only “poop your pants, but go home through your wardrobe and poop all of your pants.” He brings a light and humorous ability to puppet character The Overmind. And nothing could have prepared the audience for his turn in the sketch, “The Baby.” What happens? I can’t tell…it’s that good… (or awful).
Despite the horror that is “The Baby,” and the hundreds of other laughs during the play, the stage in the end belongs to Lucky Yates’ Doctor Impossible character. “When you are truly different, you know it.” Dr. Impossible explains in four monologues that serve as a framing piece for the play. Yates brings this character through his life and shares the heart of someone with an IQ of over 300 who has never been able to find a life and struggles with the implications of his own actions and identity by asking the question: “What do you do if your heart is the wrong kind?”
It is a sobering and meaningful moment that reflects what the entire performance was trying to get. None of us are perfect, all of us are flawed. What is the dividing line between flawed hero, and sympathetic villain? What separates you and I from those who go horribly, horribly astray? It is a question each of us must answer. After we are done laughing.