The lights go up on a fantasy townsperson, dressed like some combination of a smurf and a lawn gnome, bound and on his knees. He is facing Lady Mauron, a villain to rival the likes of Rita Repulsa or Him from the Powerpuff Girls. In full dominatrix garb, and flanked by several of her minions in steampunk goggles and grey hoodies (called “goobers”), she stands in anger, and violently slaps her thighs, releasing her vagina powers on the helpless villager. He screams and shrieks, convulsing violently, then falls to the floor. One of the goobers starts to protest, but can only release turkey gobbles until Lady Mauron breaks the spell with a wave of her hand and a snap. This is a 90s cartoon after dark.
The Adventures of Spirit Force Five tells the story of a group of peppy cheerleaders, and their slowly maturing boy scout companion, and their mission to save the denizens of Lametown (a fantasy locale in a parallel dimension). This world has magic, confetti instead of blood, and an enormous talking tree that evokes the lovechild of Shel Silverstein and the Deku Tree (albeit a sex-crazed one). The love and passion for the genre is immediately evident in the production, thanks to the quippy and self-referential playwriting and lyrics by Jill Oliver, who also wonderfully plays the mystical gypsy guide Lolahdy and choreographed the show! Fans of Captain Planet, Power Rangers, Teen Titans, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, or really any Cartoon Network or Hanna-Barbera show featuring super-powered minors is going to get a huge kick out of this show. On a similar note, this production is truly a raunchy comedy sci-fi fantasy extravaganza, so those looking for Ibsen and Chekov realism, or a fun show for the whole family, might want to sit this one out.
Clean, Clear, and Comical
Every element of this production gives the show extra pop, like the marshmallows in your Lucky Charms you ate those fabled Saturday mornings. A few examples are the opening announcements, which are actually a full cheer recorded by the cast, the lights (by Claire Sangster) subtly illuminating the Wanderer’s spherical magic weapons in differing neon colors, and the full design team’s efforts to execute puppetry to match his erotic language. There are so many little gems like this to notice and discover throughout the show, which makes the show itself a sort of fantasy scavenger hunt.
Factory Theater Sells It Well, And Makes Fun Of It Too
For this audience member and parody fan, what truly makes or breaks a play like this is commitment to the vibrant characters and melodramatic script, and this cast delivers. Kevin Alves’ Coack K is a bumbling but fearless mentor, taking every opportunity he can to accidentally throw his cape back into someone’s face. The show is also constantly aware of just how ridiculous it is, which makes it all the more fun. In a particular introductory moment, he walks out in true video game cutscene noir, only to realize that it’s raining and put up an umbrella. In fight scenes, complete with full cheerleader routine battements and mystical energy balls, you may notice that the slow-motion battle amongst the ensemble members is actually a simple thumb war with aggressively high stakes. Though the show only runs 65 minutes, the cast is exhausted by the end, and quite deserving of the applause.
Note: This is now added to the Picture this Post round up of BEST PLAYS IN CHICAGO, where it will remain until the end of the run. Click here to read – Top Picks for Theater in Chicago NOW – Chicago Plays PICTURE THIS POST Loves.
Elise Marie Davis
Eric Thomas Roach
Genna Lynn Guidry
C.W. Van Baale
Thru August 11th
Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m.
1623 W. Howard St.