A Review of Team of Heroes: Behind Closed Doors at Annex Theatre
Back in February of 2010, Annex Theatre produced the first Team of Heroes play, titled Alecto, Issue #1. Basically a superhero movie made on a tiny theater budget, Alecto was noteworthy for the gusto with which it tackled its premise: The main character was delusional (she talked to an imaginary pig) but likable, and the inventive "special effects" (telekinesis, etc.) gave Alecto a charming, magic-show vibe.
Behind Closed Doors, the second install-ment in the trilogy written by Alexander Harris and directed by Jaime Roberts, covers much of the same ground. A morally questionable team of superheroes tries—and almost always fails—to fight bad guys while also selling action figures and other merchandise to an adoring public. When big-budget effects, such as jumping out of a plane, are called for, the perspective shifts—as if the stage were a screen and cameras were zooming backward—and we're shown action figures of our superheroes in parachutes, dropping to the ground from a toy plane. It's adorable and funny and gets the job done. There aren't as many holy-shit special-effects moments this time around—were all the good ideas used up in the first play?—and the characters are the same tarnished celebrities. (For the most part, you don't need to have seen Alecto to enjoy Behind Closed Doors—except in its very last moment, a reference to Alecto might leave first-time viewers confused and dissatisfied.)
As supervillain Chaos Theory, Rachel Jackson plays a fundamentally unserious woman trying to lean into her role as a mass murderer; her sidekick is a puppet voiced and manipulated by Chaos Theory herself with a thick, manly Scottish accent. And the heroes all devote themselves to hamming it up in highly revealing tights. (It's impossible to watch this play without imagining the actors running around backstage, ripping out of their street clothes to unleash the brightly colored spandex beneath, in a more pedestrian version of those phone-booth transformations from old Superman comics.)
Flashback scenes interact with the present-day material in clever and surprising ways, and the story builds to a properly dramatic climax. But, to mix the geeky metaphors a bit, this sequel is less thoughtful and surprising than the original—more Return of the Jedi than Empire Strikes Back.