Trip the Light Fantastic: The Making of SuperStrip, the new dance-theater work from Lucky Plush Productions, defies categorization. Commissioned by the Harris Theater, the show revolves around a group of washed-up superheroes trying to form a non-profit collective. These do-gooders want to create a mission statement, and more importantly figure out what their mission is, only to get bogged down by the standard problems any group faces: bureaucracy, process, and personnel differences. Their story, told through a blend of contemporary dance and comedy-theater, shows the characters baring their hearts, arguing over super-suits, and divulging secrets. Lucky Plush describes the show as blending “comic book graphics, sound effects, and immersive video to create an experience like none other– contemporary dance theater meets animated graphic novel.”
The show, directed and choreographed by Lucky Plush’s founder Julia Rhoads, was staged for only one night, and the ensemble performed like they knew it. Their palpable energy emanated through both the dance segments and the story. Unfortunately, Trip the Light Fantastic’s plot hangs together by the loosest of threads and works on so many meta levels that it lived or died by its humor.
Without connecting to the characters, I had a difficult time getting into the one-liners and bit pieces. However, judging by the audience reaction, I was probably in the minority. The crowd roared with delight at jokes that felt as shriveled as a dried apricot: tired tropes about intellectualism, trigger warning culture, power differentials, etc. It’s worth noting that much of the crowd trended older. Ironically, a younger, Millennial audience–who you would think to be more open to the show’s genre-blending style and liberal message–might be less piqued. We’ve heard this before in a wittier, more nuanced way.
That said, the show did some innovative things with multimedia and special effects– the stage was set with large square screens, similar to comics panels, and projected videos and pictures of the cast members in a pop art, pointillist style. The dances– supposedly levels or mini-missions the superheroes had to conquer– were visually interesting and showed off the group’s strengths and physical ability. Performer Benjamin Wardell stood out; his solos were intense and beautiful.
While Trip the Light Fantastic: The Making of SuperStrip sometimes misses the mark, the ensemble clearly bursts with creativity and unique ideas. The ensemble members, who collaborated on the project have strong chemistry, and I look forward to seeing what Lucky Plush has up its sleeve next.
All photos by William Frederking and provided by Lucky Plush Productions.