Insurgo elicits magic with ‘Cartoon’

The best thing about Insurgo Theater’s “Cartoon” (the play) is that it feels like “Cartoon” (the cartoon). I don’t much like Steve Yockey’s 2006 heavy-handed comedy, but what’s not to like when you have a stage full of actors that seem torn from the pages of Saturday morning animation?

Dictator Esther (Sara Spraker) is a perversely likable brat. She controls her live toys with the blows of a hammer. She likes to play it safe by following simple daily routines. When her power is usurped — Trouble (Foresta) steals her hammer and upsets her routine — she goes ballistic.

Trouble clearly is a radical and must be stopped for the good of society. Chases often end in sudden, loud bursts of blood-spattering violence that leave you horrified as much as amused.

Yockey uses the episodic adventures to make moral points about people who play it safe and the governments who take advantage. He’s hit on an intriguing idea — the mingling of fantasy violence with real-life confrontations — but doesn’t do much with it.

Director John Beane and cast, though, do.

There’s a professional-level synchronization of stylized, disciplined movement. It’s never overdone, never feels faked. Beane creates a solid reality of this make-believe world. It’s part Road Runner cartoon, part “Pulp Fiction.”

The performers move with the grace of dancers and inhabit roles with the depth of well-trained actors. When a boy clown (Matt Pedraza) tries to woo the seemingly naïve girl clown (Emily Lauren) by giving her a bomb, you’re drawn to the sweetness and earnestness of their flirting.

When the philosophical Winston Puppet (Gabriel Gentile) theorizes deep while hanging from a rope, you feel his pain and appreciate his soul-searching.

When a stuffed heartthrob bear named Rockstar (Paul Mattingly) breaks into a monologue about how he tries to give people want they want, you sense the layers of cynicism. And when his schoolgirl groupies — Carissa Berge as Yumi and Breon Jenay as Akane — comment on the maniacal events happening around them, you laugh at their valley girl mannerisms, while cringing at their dangerous self-absorption.

Beane’s costumes scream with color and giddiness. The consistency of the director’s vision allows you to give yourself over to the action. The 65-minute production is a celebration of the power of performance magic.

Anthony Del Valle can be reached at DelValle@aol.com. You can write him c/o Las Vegas Review-Journal, P.O. Box 70, Las Vegas, NV 89125.

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