SuperHero

This kid from Harlem just opened up about being bullied and you’re gonna be shocked by how he handled it.

By Andrew Andrews

SJ Hannah, Bryce Michael Wood and Jeorge Bennett Watson in Houses on the Moon Theater Company’s production of Ian Eaton’s SuperHero at the Frank Shiner Theater at the Sheen Center in NoHo. Original photos by Russ Rowland.

As an overweight black kid with a Scottish first name, Ian faced a lot of problems growing up in Harlem in the early 1980s.

At age five, Ian dreamed of becoming a comic book superhero, and when his mom sewed him a cape, he ran around the apartment believing he could fly.

When Ian was ten, his artistic 15-year-old brother drew pictures of Batman, Superman and Foxy Brown to decorate his bedroom—then a mugger killed the older boy, leaving the younger without his beloved role model.

Adding insult to injury, Ian faced further turmoil when a troubled classmate started beating him up.

That's when Ian decided to take matters into his own hands, by stashing his father’s .38 revolver into his backpack and seeking out one final confrontation with his bully.

Told as a series of flashbacks in the style of A Christmas Story or Malcolm in the Middle, with four grown-up actors portraying people of all ages, Superhero blends lighthearted comedy with intense drama to provide a bittersweet glimpse of growing up in the projects, against a backdrop of transit system delays and nascent rap music.

Valisia Lekae (left) completes the cast, directed by co-developer Warren Adams. Scenic, lighting and sound design by Lawrence Moten, Amina Alexander and Ronvé O’Daniel, respectively.

Even if your childhood bore little resemblance to Ian’s, you're sure to enjoy his trip down memory lane.

On a set that perfectly mashes the outside of a subway car with the inside of a NYCHA kitchen, the production enhances its classic delivery with creative sound and lighting effects, choreography and novelties that might be typical of a Broadway show, but are more delightful when encountered in a black box theatre downtown.

The actors do such a terrific job of portraying their characters that you won't even care when a 10-year-old boy has a gray beard, or when a elderly Irish-American nun bears a striking resemblance to an African-American tween.

I did notice a few scripted anachronisms, and believe that some of the feelings expressed by the prepubescent boys were a little too mature for their age.

Even the comically-low seats and chatty audience weren't annoying enough to downgrade the play, although hopefully you won't be as distracted as I was by multiple attendees rudely playing with their phones in the middle of the action.

The $35 price tag, though seemingly high for a basement on Bleeker Street, is easily justified by this production’s all-around professionalism.

Although the script is not quite flawless enough to earn a super-human rating, the story is glorious, and Houses on the Moon's delivery is as close to perfect as a troupe of mere mortals can get.

4

Andrew Andrews attended SuperHero at Sheen Center Frank Shiner Theater in Manhattan on Wednesday, April 13, 2022 @ 7:00pm to write this review.