The Phantasmic Four

Promised this post a few weeks ago, and only now getting around to it... In early February, my improv troupe did a completely improvised, three-act, superhero play. The challenge mostly resting with how to create special effects, and integrating guest comic genius Christian Essiambre into the group. The story, as it unfolded, makes very little sense (rare for us), but raucously funny and full of images no other genre would have allowed us to do. I'll try to tell the story in pictures (all by Joelle Martin, my girl from the Green).

The Cast!

The characters' names invented for this blog, since 1) they kept changing throughout the play and 2) they were usually in French anyway. Note that each "actor" was assigned a chest emblem by the crowd, and each emblem was associated with a super-power that was not known to the actor. A few stock costumes and a home-made HQ set complete the picture. Our heroes are:

Telekinenemetametik Man (Christian Essiambre)
Or however you pronounce that. He has the power of telekinennnennesus, but thinks it's the worst power in the world.

The Brick (Etienne Boivin)
Super-strong and invulnerable, he also tends to be a bit dense and cowardly.

AA (Annik Landry)
Impatient with her team of losers, AA is a human battery that can throw electricity around.

Fishboy (Sylvain Ward)
He has one of my favorite powers, talking to fish (and through fish, as we find out). He's under the impression that he's the biggest badass in the team and he may be right. His goldfish sidekick is called Flash.

Cash-Man (Bass Levesque)
Taking our cue from Grant Morrison's J-Pop version of Batman in Final Crisis, his only power is to be filthy rich. He basically bought his way into the team by providing the HQ and paying the bills (had to, because he's an insufferable loser) and spends the entire play buying new gadgets for himself.

Mimejas (Me and Carolynn McNally)
Though we played some smaller roles (I was the wizard-like villain and she was the reporter Louise), our main function was that of mimeja - Ninjas that mime the powers of others. How else are you going to do telekinesis on stage?

Act 1!
TK Man is so depressed, he's suicidal.
That's what happens when you think even Fishboy has better powers than yours (such is the power of Fishboy's PR). Act 1 is pretty much an introduction to all the characters, with little in the way of significant action. The team goes out to defend its reserved parking. They whine about not having real crimes to fight. A journalist comes over for a chat. Flash the goldfish dies, but is resurrected by AA's electricity. And Cash-Man makes us wonder where he gets those wonderful toys.
Now that we know the characters and their situation...

Act 2!
Enter our villain, an evil wizard bent on corrupting the Phantasmic Four. He has villain teams all over the city poised to attack.
Lo and behold, here comes AA.
He corrupts her by showing her how to make her team a REAL team. And that's by destroying it! (That part makes sense... eventually.)

Meanwhile, Cash-Man buys a personality changer with super-money.
It makes him go from simpleton to jackass, and he leaves the team. Disheartened, the Brick and Fishboy do the same. TK Man is the only one left, and after destroying the HQ in a fit of frustration, he is ambushed by the corrupted AA.
And is killed!

Act 3!
Funeral for a Friend...
There, the old team meets for the first time since they broke up, and wonder if it could all have been avoided if they'd only used team work. The jerky Cash-Man can't take the guilt anymore, and goes once more through the personality changer, returning to his naive self. Everyone apologizes and the Ph F are back together again.
That's when TK Man's tomb begins to glow!

And he is resurrected!!! (Of course.)
Of course, someone's got some explaining to do as to why they buried him without any pants on.
Cue that moment for the villain to return, but he was expecting a divided Ph F, not the newly reborn, tighter than ever version. TK Man grabs the big scrapbook from him and discovers what his plan was all along.
Including AA's part in it. Where is she, anyway? Behind our heroes!
As the purple gauze demonstrates, she's still evil, and using a giant wand to focus her powers. With the rest of the team quickly beaten down, a battle royale between her and the phoenix-like TK Man ensues:
He's about to lose too when he has a flash of genius. He teekays the personality changer onto her head...
...and makes her good again!

From there it's a simple matter of grabbing the powerless villain (his power was merely to manipulate people, but he's out of options) and somehow turn him into a fish with a tweaked personality changer. The real punishment is Fishboy's who now has to listen to the villain whine for the rest of his natural life.

So that was the play, admittedly without the jokes made that night. Improv is ephemera, what can I tell you? Great fun, and those mimejas really gave us a bunch of ideas for similar manipulations, perhaps in an improv play with occult elements. I'll let you know!


De said...

I love the concept of mimejas and the lightning bolts on sticks totally crack me up.

Alden said...

Could a mimeja portray the Enterprise? Star Trek is filled with comic gold (though the Ferengi episodes makes it seem like the writers lost their pickaxes and instead dug up some dirt with their hands).

Mathieu said...

Vous êtes des génies. Sérieusement. Bravo!


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