‘Reals’ at Theater Alliance by Grace Kim

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Kicking off Theatre Alliance’s 10th anniversary season is Reals, written by well-known D.C. playwright and theatre scene heavyweight Gwydion Suilebhan and directed by Shirley Serotsky, who receives energetic performances from her fine cast.

Blair Bowers (in red), Andrés C. Talero (in black), and Jon Hudson Odom (in green). Photo by C. Stanley Photography.

Reals was conceived by Gwydion to ponder people’s obsession with superheroes – an obsession that moves some everyday citizens (the ‘Reals’) to become crime-fighting heroes, some complete with costumes, and alter-identities.

You’ll notice before you enter the theatre, the lobby has some pictures and brief bios of real-life heroes pinned to their location on a map of the United States. There’s also a dress-up corner with costumes that gives you a chance to cosplay a superhero and to take a photo of your super-hero self.

And even if you are not a superhero fan, I am confident you will enjoy Reals.

The major theme of Reals is to break down the draw of the superhero, something you can intellectually enjoy via a live performance. Reals is an entertaining play that includes a couple of good twists, and will make you think and understand the real intention for a play about “superheroes” by the end.

Inside the theater, you’re transported to Scenic and Properties Designer Steven T. Royal, Jr.’s industrial warehouse , in some secret location. The heroes gather at night. Nightlife (Andres C. Talero) and Belt (Blair Bowers) bicker over Nightlife’s attempt to form a superhero team. Nightlife embodies the typical superhero construct with his superhero code of behavior, the secret hideaway, the secret knock to get in, and the costume designed to hide his identity. Belt attempts to check all of Nightlife’s adherence to the comic book superhero hoopla.

Enter Sensei (Jon Hudson Odom), whose presence and words move you to realize he embodies the substance of a hero who fights crime in slightly unorthodox ways–by reforming the criminal. The fourth character, Girl, is brilliantly played by Brynn Tucker. Sensei carries her into the warehouse bound and gagged – she is a criminal who has a good heart but just needs to be reformed. The process, initiated by Sensei, becomes a learning method for Nightlife to question his philosophy and method on fighting crime.

You’ll learn that there are two types of heroes, those who are do-good’ers and those who fight crime. You’ll also find out which character will make you ponder the substance of a real superhero. Is it really the construct of costumes and superhero codes?

Some minor quibbles: some of the dialogue in the ‘heavy’ scenes seemed to go on for a few minutes too long, particularly in the first few scenes, but the shot picked up some momentum towards the end.

Brynn Tucker. Photo by C. Stanley Photography.

Don’t miss Reals! You’ll experience some fine acting, a well-crafted fight scene staged by Fight Director Nathaniel Mendez, a couple of juicy plot twists, and some laughs dispersed in between.

Running time: About 90 minutes with no intermission.

Reals plays through September 16, 2012 at H Street Playhouse – 1365 H Street, NE, in Washington, DC. Purchase tickets online.