By Samuel McCarthy
Sitting inside the furnace-like Brick theatre in Brooklyn’s uber-hip Williamsburg neighborhood, you’re watching a Victorian child, an 80s airhead, a tough 50s chick and a 2013 social outcast battling for the fate of a galaxy (“not the universe,” we are reminded) against an evil space queen named for a Super Mario character. Suffice it to say, Final Defenders is no humdrum production. Performed as part of The Brick’s Game Play festival – showcasing a series of plays based on video game culture – Patrick Storck’s satire/slapstick/sly-winking comedy provides as much nostalgia as hilarity, although it has both in abundance.
Two time-travelling pacifist aliens (David Hicks and Amy Overman, both gamely gulping back martinis) reveal that they have planted video games on earth to recruit a team of would-be heroes to defend their species in a plot knowingly playing on 80s cult hit The Last Starfighter (“We made that too”). Their ragtag band, pulled together from the past century of human history, includes specialist talents such as being OK at cup-and-ball (Rachel Grundy’s hyper-optimist Victorian schoolboy Luke), being a good cheater (Adam Files’ MMORPG addict Errol), being a great Asteroids player (Melissa DeLancey’s scrunchie-wearing 80s slang machine Sam) and being seriously high (Tom O’Connor’s hippie Lazlo).
As you may have guessed, King Lear it ain’t. Before our show has even begun, we’re treated to a series of warmingly nostalgic movie trailers, ranging from Double Dragon to Street Fighter and put in the perfect mindset for what’s to come. As DeLancey and Files stride out into the 80s arcade in which our show begins, images of now-derelict arcade machines are projected onto the back wall of the Brick’s intimate stage. These projections continue throughout the show. Justin Plowman’s audiovisual work beautifully complements the on-stage sets, highlighted by a series of 8-bit renditions of the leads, who execute their ‘special moves’ during a fabulously 80s training montage, complete with a dance routine that wouldn’t look out of place in Flashdance.
Indeed, Final Defenders scoops up literally dozens of video game references from the early years of the industry – back when it was a nerds-only club filled with social outcasts – and spits them out in a machine-gun of gustily delivered witty dialogue. As Nicole Lee Aiossa’s Queen Bowsera cackles maniacally, Overman and Hicks are a picture of comic tranquillity, insisting that “time is of the essence” while finding time to share saccharine-sweet kisses and correcting one another’s mangled English. Our group of heroes are headlined by Files’s brilliantly maladroit Errol, a man whose idea of a battle plan is a series of slides outlining the impenetrability of the fortress his team must attack.
Grundy and O’Connor provide a winning and unlikely double act: she offers an almost unbelievable level of wide-eyed naiveté, which turns a potentially one-note character into a gem, and he reminisces hilariously about visions in caves which may or may not even exist. The entire company offers laughs and completely buy into the inherent silliness of the premise. Each bites beamingly into the one-liners, Star Trek-esque spaceship attacks (read: repeatedly throwing themselves from one side of the stage to the other) and the aforementioned montage, perhaps the highlight of a memorable and winningly nostalgic evening’s irreverent theatre.
Through July 26th — buy tickets here.