The Craptacular Spider-Man: Turn Off the Pain Part 2

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Red Headed Stepchild of Origins

Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark posterPreviously in The Craptacular Spider-Man: Carmen DeLuccia and her boyfriend braved the streets of New York City to catch the first preview of Julie Taymor’s newest epic musical, Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark.  Instead of being treated to ol’ Webhead’s origin, they saw the origin of… Arachne?!

We finally meet Peter. Blah blah blah… picked on in school… blah blah… crush on MJ….all standard stuff….glossed over, but standard. Our hero finds himself at the Osborn Corporation, which looks like a mash up of Flash Gordon, 1970’s Doctor Who and Spencer Gifts. Blinding silver lamé costumes, emblazoned with more silver circuitry and rope chase lights ($65 million) with puppets on sticks in giant tubes, that the actors were manipulating ($65 million). Let’s try to ignore the fact that Emily Osborn is running the company with Norman, and move on to why Norman is portrayed like Colonel Sanders. As my boyfriend pointed out, he was playing Foghorn Leghorn… in lamé. I won’t linger on this point, since Patrick Page’s performance was one of the more genuinely entertaining parts of the show. It was just kind of funny.  So the spider gets loose, drops down (about 2 feet away from Peter I’d like to add), bites him and we are finally under way.

We go to Pete’s bedroom (sets by Dr. Seuss!), and we watch him crawl on walls (yay! wire work, finally). We get mostly through the scene before they stop the show to fix the flying rigs. We were warned that this might happen and honestly, being seated in the orchestra, I wasn’t keen on anyone falling on me, so I was OK with it.

I will say now that almost every time there was wire work, the show stopped. The desire for safety is understandable given the number of wrists and ankles that were lost in the making of the show. A moment of silence please, for all of the carpals and tarsals that were scarified in the name of the Spider.

…After an eternity the show started again.

Peter decides to use his powers to make some cash and signs up for the wrestling match. After some painful dialogue provided by the Twilight Greek Chorus about the likelihood of a teenage boy knowing how to sew a costume for himself (“What did he take, maybe one year of Home Ec?”) we go to the quintessential Ed Wood scene. Picture a wrestling ring. Now put a giant inflatable wrestler in it, very similar to the Wrestling Buddies pillows of the 80’s, only huge.

When Peter jumps into the ring he proceeds to flail about and manipulate the inflated wrestler’s arms himself, essentially wrestling on both sides of the match. This immediately prompted my boyfriend and I to simultaneously exclaim “Bela, shake his legs around so it looks like he’s killing you.” It was laughable to say the least.

Peter Parker gets the Bad TouchWhat happened next was a rape of my soul. As Peter is walking home Uncle Ben… gets……hit….by….a….car. Flash Thompson’s recently stolen car, I might add. No burglar. No emotionally complex story holding Spidey accountable for failing to stop the thief.  I’m sorry, what?

As anyone who has not been staring directly at his prostate for the last oh, 40 years, knows that it is Uncle Ben’s death (echoed later by Gwen’s) that drives Spidey. It is the guilt of previous inaction that gives him his pathos and creates the character. The sense of moral obligation that haunts him, gives him purpose. The fear of losing those he loves.  It makes him the hero he is. Gives him depth, humanity, gravitas.

NOPE! Hit by a car! Oh and to top it all off… “With great power….” line was delivered.  Not in Ben’s conversation with Peter (which was literally 3 lines of dialogue), not even squeezed into his death scene. Nothing. Epic fail.

Aesthetic note: I need to point out that the “Flash stolen car scene” leading up to Ben’s demise was played in a Japanese Shadow puppet style. This was used with great comedic success in The 39 Steps, but here, the sight of the supporting sticks just added to the overall unprofessional look and cheesiness. It was rushed, shaky and not how you want to play out one of the most important death scenes of comic book canon.  All I know is that it made me want to commit Seppuku.

Anyway. Now it gets good. Peter is visited by Arachne in a dream/astral plane and is given his costume (you read that right).  She sends him on his way as a superhero and we FINALLY get to see Spider-Man OriginSpider-Man. Using a combination of floor work and wire rigging, several brave stunt men leaped, flipped and flew about. The ground work was very reminiscent of the Japanese Spider-Man series produced by TOEI  in the 70’s. Entertaining, but nothing really new or note worthy.

The wire work was neat. People in balcony seats were probably unprepared for Spidey to land inches from them.  We should have savored this a bit more….as it was the most Spidey we were going to get in the show. I should probably also mention that there was very little webbing to speak of, aside from a bit of silly string in places and one instance of wire work, pulling a thug off of his feet.

A thug, I might add, that was wearing a seriously offensive African-American stereotype mask. I’m not kidding. The “regular people”  on the streets all wore awful caricature masks. I later learned from the TIVO’d 60 Minutes special that these masks were of Julie Taymor’s own design, a la The Lion King..  Remember the bit about poor administrative decisions?….yeah. Hubris.

As Spider-Man starts making headlines we are introduced to J. Jonah Jameson (no mustache!) and his team of 1940’s reporters. Every other character is dressed in a relatively 2010 style…except for those employed by J.J. Nope, tweed, pill box hats, hounds tooth suits, pencil skirts and green eyeshades seem to be the company dress code. The team of ladies type on manual typewriters and those who talked at all sounded like Audrey of Little Shop fame. I kept waiting for the trademark “Shaw-ah”. Anyway, Spider-Man is a menace… blah blah blah.

Back to Norman who is being bullied by the military to start playing ball. They have seen Spidey and have figured out that it must be an Osborn related creation and they want stuff. Make monsters for your country, damn it! After what can only be described as the celebratory dance of the “don’t ask don’t tell appeal” (hey, I’m all for it!), Norman gives in.

All of the scientists leave him. Emily comes in at one point to tell him this by saying,“They’ve all left the building: Romita, Lee, Ditko, Bendis and Straczynski.”

I turned to my boyfriend and said, “You’re goddamn right they left the building!”

Green Goblin in Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark

In another spectacular scene brought to you by Spencer Gifts, Green Goblin is born a la Frankenstein’s monster, complete with whirly light up thingies and smoke. Emily Osborn is killed in the system malfunction and Goblin swears to basically kill everyone because of it.

To Be Continued…

Hey there True Believers, come back tomorrow as Carmen resigns herself to her fate and sticks around for Act II!