Company One’s ‘Astro Boy’ a multimedia marvel
BOSTON — It its 15 years of existence, the work of the Boston-based theater company Company One has been described in many ways : fresh, original, diverse, provocative.
One adjective I’ve never heard associated with it: dull.
Company One‘s current production of “Astro Boy & the God of Comics” at the Boston Center for the Arts is fascinating multimedia combination of animation, art, interactive video, and live action that’s endlessly creative and great fun.
Playwright Natsu Onoda Power, a Washington, D.C.-based writer, director and designer, conceived and directs the production. Power has unleashed a crew of imagineers who have been given free rein to create a memorable experience at the Boston Center for the Arts, and they have delivered.
The piece pays homage to Osamu Tezuka, the “Walt Disney of Japan” and a pioneer in the style of comic known as manga in Japan, where comics take many more literary forms than in the United States.
Tezuka created the character of Astro Boy — a sweet-faced, crime-fighting robot with an IQ of 300 and strength measured at 100,000 hp — in the 1950’s and saw him rise from manga to a popular 1960s anime TV series, which was actually set in the 2000’s.
“Astro Boy” consists of 12 scenes that proceed in reverse chronological order, beginning with an selfless act of heroism by Astro Boy — his final mission in the TV series — when he voluntarily flies onto the sun in a bid to stem radiation and save mankind.
The story peels back the layers of his life, arriving back in Tezuka’s youth, when he was fully engaged in comics during World War II but voluntarily scaled back publicizing his work because the art at the time was considered unpatriotic .
“Astro Boy” uses a variety of creative methods tell its story, including a huge drawing pad laid onto a video screen, with the ensemble scrambling to draw instant recreations of Astro Boy comic art.
Clark Young, with whom Power worked in a previous production, portrays the artist in his trademark beret, aided by a spirited ensemble of actors that includes Gianella Flores, who often portrays Astro Boy, Phil Berman, Jessica LaChance, Amanda Ruggiero, Jeff Song, Robert St. Laurence and Kaitee Treadway.
Company One is not afraid to take on pieces that are both artistically and technically challenging. These are the same folks who created a full-scale wrestling ring in the Boston Center for the Arts for their acclaimed production of “The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity.”
“Astro Boy” clocks in a compact, snappy 80 minutes, and it will leave you wanting to know more Tezuka, his life and his comic legacy.
The Company One production of of Natsu Onoda Power’s “Astro Boy & the God of Comics,” Through Aug. 16 at the Boston Center for the Arts, Plaza Theatre (Tickets, from $20-$38 , are on sale now at http://www.companyone.org.