Bec Willett is an Australian, Chicago-based director, designer, educator, and writer. She has worked on projects with an array of Chicago theater companies, including 20% Theatre, Chicago Dramatists, City Lit, Dandelion Theatre, Prologue Theatre, and Waltzing Mechanics. To find out more about her work and upcoming projects, please visit becwillett.com.
Dylan Schaefer (Canius) and Elizabeth C. MacDougald (Jane/Perfectra) | Photo by Steven Townshend
By Bec Willett
It’s impossible not to smile during Otherworld Theatre’s production of ALL I WANT IS ONE MORE MEANWHILE… by Kelly Jean Fitzsimmons, their first production in their new space. The stale beer scent of the previous Public House long gone the walls are now adorned with whimsical fantasy-themed art and warm blue nooks in which to enjoy a beer and your favorite comic book. It’s the perfect escape into the world of sci-fi and fantasy.
Imagine a feminist comic book story in theatrical form and you have ALL I WANT IS ONE MORE MEANWHILE… Superhero Perfectra used to be perfect because, well, she was a robot. Opting to choose giving birth to her daughter over her adventurous lifestyle, we meet her years later in a much less glamorous position: contemplating her back fat to her human-trapped-in-a-dog’s-form pet, Betzler. The years may have made her less than perfect but have not eased villain Canius’ obsession. With an evil plan to gain her perfection for himself, he doesn’t expect to find Perfectra’s daughter Adara to be more than she appears: kapow. Yes, the base plot is formulaic but Fitzsimmons’ tongue-in-cheek commentary is not, elevating it to ask questions about how women are held up to unrealistic expectations of perfection.
Given the company’s mission, it’s no surprise that the strongest parts of this production are those that reside fully in the fantastical. This team’s ability to envelop us in the comic book aesthetic by transforming a 2D art form into a 3D one is especially evident in the design. David Goodman-Edberg’s lighting constantly surprises and delights with moving LEDs, which — integrated with Hayden Penn’s set design — create a life-sized comic-book frame for which the actors to play. Robert Hornbostel’s sound effects in concert with Goodman-Edberg’s snappy cuts between washes and spots invoke the unique asides of the comic art form, as well as creating moments of satire.
It’s during the scenes of comic book magic that the performances and direction make the most of this perfect platform created by the design team, through the appropriation of comic book tropes. For example, Dylan Schaefer as villain Canius, clad in a white coat, spins hilariously accurate diabolical monologues, complete with evil laughs and creepy scarf-sniffing. While these scenes are enjoyable, those that drive much of the action of the play forward are more realistic in style. In contrast to the fantastical portions, these more realistic scenes aren’t as clearly rendered, causing them to feel sluggish and making it more difficult to connect with the underlying relationship tension. Despite this, the actors’ energy never wanes, so that regardless of the style of the scene, the humor prevails.
Just like Perfectra herself, ALL I WANT IS ONE MORE MEANWHILE… may not be consistently perfect, but it is consistently fun. A wonderful opportunity to escape from the state of this world, it’s a good reminder that just because you’re not a perfect woman, it doesn’t mean you’re not a strong one.