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Honey Fist featuring Lori E. Parquet, Anna Rahn, Chinaza Uche, Matt Archambault, Isaiah Tanenbaum, and Nat Cassidy Photo credit Ken Glickfeld

A group of friends have gathered to drink beers and smoke buds under the powerlines in suburban Massachusetts in remembrance of their friend Justin, who died under mysterious circumstances at the end of high school. Now, thirteen years later, they have made their anniversary pilgrimage to a spot by a cliff in the shadow of electrical transmission towers, to party in remembrance of him.

But tonight will be different.

Joey (Nat Cassidy), a successful Hollywood writer with a famous singer girlfriend Gretyl Barnes (Lori E. Parquet) and the only member to make it out, has returned as with a proposition. Joey wants to know how Justin really died, and he’s willing to give a brand new Porsche to the one who can tell him. But Stu (Matt Archambault) doesn’t want Joey to learn their innermost stories about Justin. Stu says Joey is a sellout who used his friends’ lives to get rich in Hollywood, and Stu is sick of having his life appropriated without getting the spoils.

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Hearts Like Fists featuring Becky Byers, Rachael Hip-Flores, and Aja Houston Photo credit Isaiah Tanenbaum

Beck Byers, Rachael Hip-Flores and Aja Houston as the CRIMEFIGHTERS!

Lock your windows, Lovers! Dr. X is prowling the town, a twisted Opposite Day Santa Claus, creeping through windows after midnight, looking for inamoratos whose heads are filled with dreams of sugar plum fairies and bright tomorrows, and injecting them with deadly venom. Who can stop this murderous crime wave? Nina, Sally and Jazmin — the CRIMEFIGHTERS! They’ll find out why Doctor X is such a murderous creep! But dang my dingies! The Gruesome Doctor slips through their fingers until Lisa, an unmasked amateur, follows him through a window and attempts to stop him herself. Though he escapes, Lisa gains the admiration of Nina, Sally and Jazmin who ask her to join the team, Alexandre Dumas style.

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“You may call me a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.” — J. Lennon.

When Albert Goldman’s biography The Lives of John Lennon came out in 1988 it was roundly attacked. Paul McCartney called it “a piece of trash,” and  Rolling Stone said it was “riddled with factual inaccuracies.” Goldman had savaged a pop music saint, and no one would give credence to Lennon’s feet of clay — much less Goldman’s insistence that Lennon was a hollow idol, who in real life was cruel, selfish, and manipulative. The trivial truth was that Lennon was human, and as such, full of human failures, limitations, and fears. But the way he inspired people to dream about love and forgiveness made him seem above mere humanity in the eyes of his fans.

The same could be said for those paragons of working class heroism, the heroes of comic books. As mythological creatures, demi-gods of popular culture that first sprang to life during the Great Depression, they fight bad guys with an unambiguous “pow!” “zap!” and “ka-blammo!” In the 80s it became fashionable to make the heroes more human (e.g. “Superman III,” “Legends of the Dark Night”), and audiences came to understand that the flaws of their heroes made them paradoxically more heroic. The pathos of Superman or Batman is a product of their limitations, not their powers. But their essential heroism is still pure: they know who the bad guys are and how to defeat them in thirty-six pages or less.

August Schulenburg’s new play Dream Walker presents us with a hybrid working class hero. Richie, played by Collin Smith, is part Lucy in the Sky, poetic dreamer and part Annikken Starkiller, natural born ass kicker. He is a social misfit, hopeless romantic, and allergic to money. His older brother Gary, played by Matthew Archambault, works in the “real world” to support Richie with food, raiment, and shelter while Richie crafts a Tolkien-esque fantasy novel that may never see the light of day. But Richie has two special powers: as a writer (unpublished when the play opens) he has the very human power of weaving beautiful stories; as a comic book hero he is able to enter people’s literal dreams and influence them.

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Christina Shipp and Stephen Conrad Moore as A.J. and Ajax in Iraq

Ellen McLaughlin, author of Ajax in Iraq, turned to the ancient Greeks to make sense out of our soldiers’ experience in Iraq because the Greeks were the first to make sense of the fear, rage, and terror that constitute war by creating a theater for veterans and by veterans. Aeschylus fought in both the battles of Marathon and Salamis (c. 480 BCE). Sophocles was 16 when the Greeks triumphed at Salamis and served as a citizen general in the Athenian army during the Peloponnesian War. These were men who knew the terrors of war first hand, and it is their authority McLaughlin draws on to untangle the Gordian knot of meanings that are present for us, Americans, about our ten-year wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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