Blast Off Achieved: “Astro Boy and the God of Comics”

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Presented by Company One
Written and Directed by Natsu Onoda Power

July 19-August 16, 2014
Plaza Theatre at Boston Center for the Arts
Boston, MA
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Review by Noe Kamelamela

(Boston) Sci-fi disciples should rocket into the BCA to catch Astro Boy and the God of Comics.  Company One not only delivers the flash and joy of Mighty Atom, but also ably handles the more thorny political commentary.  Violence, death, and some racially offensive content are referenced.

Natsu’s show is the beautiful melding of different styles of presentation: live video feed, live projections, drawing in real-time, live action, music, dance, puppetry, slapstick and more.  Despite the inclusion of seemingly disparate elements, the show is well structured to its own method.  The set is frequently divided into specific action areas. The structure of the episodes moves back in time from the height of Astro Boy’s popularity to Osamu Tezuka’s first creative leanings.

Technical elements play big roles on the mostly utilitarian set.  The props and costumes were designed to evoke the aesthetics of early science fiction:  low budget and high concept.  Lights, projection and sound cued much of the action and added another dimension to a show that boasted well-timed ensemble work.  The rubber-faced Robert St Laurence brought panache to diverse roles while Gianella Flores sparkled as the earnest and hopeful Astro Boy.

It is still exciting to see a show in Boston where both the audience and cast are of mixed race. The whole theatre experience was probably akin to what Tezuka envisioned when he placed Astro Boy in the early 2000s, praying that the future would be better instead of differently terrible from the past.  Astro, like Tezuka’s comic, builds on the various darker images from the past to come up with something new and hopeful.

Astro’s media explosion concludes Company One’s 15th season. Their 16th season will kick off in October with The Displaced Hindu Gods Trilogy.

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