Posted by: strugglesome | November 17, 2010

Hit me baby one more time: Team Sunshine Performance Corporation’s Punchkapow

There may have been a time that little boys were made from snails and puppy dog tails, but those days are over, at least, if Team Sunshine Performance Corporation has anything to say about it. These days, boys seem to made from video games and comic books and, depending on the dork level of the child in question, marathon Dungeons and Dragons sessions. The question then is, where do boys put all of their Star Wars trivia and Iron Man quotes when they grow up? The answer? They don’t put it anywhere, they keep it right there with them the whole time, and they take it out any chance they get. Fantasy violence, with all it’s escapist pleasures and empowering joys can be a very seductive mistress, the problem of course being, what if you like the fantasy more then you like real life? And it’s that question that Team Sunshine Performance Corporation is dipping it’s toe in in their inaugural production Punchkapow, a funny physical sixty minutes of theater that plays with friendship, violence and why shooting things can be totally awesome.

Created by Pig Iron Theatre Company member Alex Torra in conjunction with performers and Team Sunshine Performance Corporation co-Captains Ben Camp and Makoto Hirano, the central storyline of this piece is fairly simple. Two close friends have a kind of Fantasy World Fight Club in their free time, running through burning buildings, defeating armies of villains, conquering the world from the safety of their own homes. As elaborate and embroidered as their fantasy lives may be, the relationship between Camp’s Jaime and Hirano’s Marc is less complicated. Marc has enlisted in the army, and is waiting to be dispatched to a world of real violence, leaving techie-Jaime and their friendship behind. Jaime is consistently unable to connect with Marc about the upcoming separation, and so he sinks deeper into his fantasy life, aided by a crew of “walk ons” (a group of local actors and artists who form the background/narration of the piece and whose yellow t-shirts declare them to be “Team Jaime” in this bro-break up).

I don’t know what the word is for the sounds we make when we are imitating physical technology in motion, that is, the sounds of laser guns and body armor that fuses to the human form and spaceships in motion, but if indie directors can make up a word like mumblecore, surely no one will begrudge me my new word describing this category of sound, techtones. It is these techtones, not quite onomatopoetic, more like an a capella version of the Battlestar Galactica soundscape, that are the driving force of Punchkapow, as Hirano and Camp create their own soundtracks accompanying their violent pantomimes. Staged against suspended curtains that give the stage that air of  vintage-boxing ring (courtesy of set designer Emma Ferguson) and scored with various inspirational fight-film tunes (engineered by sound designer Daniel Perelstein) , Camp and Hirano bounce off of each other with practiced ease, now super-heroes, now ninjas, now two old friends with nothing much to say.Both actors display precision and skill as they mime weapons, machines and battles using nothing but their own bodies and voice boxes, and when the pantomime is good, it’s crystal clear and committed. If there are moments of opaque confusion, or times when we lose whatever it is Camp and Hirano are doing with their hands, well, it’s their fantasy, not ours, right?

Despite the violent subject matter (and title), there is a quietness to this piece, a simplicity in the interactions between Marc and Jaime that highlights the fragility of human relationships, which are so deeply damaged by all that goes unsaid. The balance between Jaime and Marc’s elaborate fantasies and clear, painful reality is an interesting one, drawing attention to how much more painful inaction can be then action, and how powerfully fantasy can distort and delude reality.  That being said, this production often  feels like a piece in development, an early exploration of some rich themes and subjects that could stand to be plumbed deeper for material and polished over for compactness. It’s going to be exciting to see where Team Sunshine Performance Corporation takes this exploration, and how it evolves and strengthens as a piece. My advice? If television teaches us anything,  there’s always room for more violence.

To catch this round of Team Sunshine Performance Corporation’s Punchkapow, pick up tickets here. The show will run until November 21st.

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Responses

  1. […] between the two, the distance between then and now.  Hirano, last seen in Punchkapow’s journey though the mind of a video game, is a one-man whirlwind in this piece, created by Hirano and directed by Pig Iron’s Sarah […]


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