by Mike Poblete · June 20, 2014
Indie Artists on New Plays #121 Mike Poblete comments on Masterpiece Comics Theater part of the Brick Theater's Comic Book Festival Charlie Brown awakes as a giant bug creature, having to cope not only with Kafka’s dilemma of Gregor, but, as usual, the menacing fists of Lucy. Dennis the Menace is forced to consider whether the murder of his uncle, the usurper Mr. Wilson, is to be or not to be. These, and many other hilarious and occasionally poignant interpretations of classical literature through the medium of comic strip characters, are the subject of R. Sikoryak’s Masterpiece Comics Theater.
A sparse stage features nothing but music stands, as a rotating cast of four performers, as well as Sikoryak himself as presenter, bring giant projections of the cartoonist’s work to life. Taken from Sykoryak’s clever and sardonic Masterpiece Comics, published by Drawn and Quarterly, a dizzying amount of strips take us on a literary journey from the Bible through the 20th Century. One moment Momma, in her wry knowing look to the reader, dons the guise of Medea in planning the murder of her children; in another, Beavis and Butthead sport bowler hats as they mindlessly giggle awaiting the absent Godot; all to great comic effect.
The featured players on the night I attended were Hope Cartelli, M. Sweeney Lawless, Kevin Maher and Paul Boocock. All four are talented vocal performers who fully committed to the characters, nailing the voices we are familiar with like Garfield and Beavis. But Boocock, who has been featured on Cartoon Network’s The Venture Brothers and Elevator Repair Service’s Gatz, was a standout favorite.
The real star, however, is Sikoryak’s artwork. The skill of his mimicry of many different and familiar styles is impressive, and is a lot of fun to take in. In the first segment, featuring Dagwood taking a predictably gluttonous amount of apples off the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, the illustrations were so spot on I would have been convinced I was looking at an actual Blondie comic were it not for the detailed nakedness.
With the show running at a brisk sixty minutes, Sikoryak has the good sense to keep the strips brief so as to not let the novelty of the premise wear off. The lone exception is the final piece, where Dostoyevsky’s Rodion Raskolnikov questions the paradox of morality in the immoral world of Crime and Punishment, as embodied by, who else, Batman. This longer piece, about twelve minutes long, shows off Sikoryak’s writing skills through a full narrative arc. Gotham City proves to be the perfect tone for nineteenth century St. Petersburg, hitting a pinnacle when a tortured Bruce Wayne is kept awake by his murder of a Jokeresque pawnbroker. My inner high school English geek leapt for joy.
The Brick Theater, a venue that describes itself as a home for “the nerds, outcasts, and mad experimenters of theater,” has brought us the second installment of their Comic Book Theater Festival, a series that seeks to present the sequential art form of images and time to the stage. With such a unique and fringed endeavor, there is always the danger that a show will appeal only to the hardcore fanatics of both genres. But in the case of Masterpiece Comics Theater, we have a truly entertaining performance that will surely please all audiences.