Teen playwright says L.A. satire of 'Spider-Man' musical won't lose sting after VIP treatment on Broadway
“Shoot first and ask questions later” is a good rule for satirists, whose witty impact depends on not pulling punches or letting an excess of fair-mindedness blunt an instinct for mockery.
Taking that approach has worked for Adam Brodheim, a 17-year-old novice playwright from Manhattan. Without having seen Broadway’s lavishly expensive, mishap-bedeviled musical “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark,” he penned a satiric take-off called “Spider-Man: Turn on the Lights,” that has earned him a slot in the Blank Theatre Company’s Young Playwrights Festival. The show will run June 16-19 at the Stella Adler Theatre in Hollywood on a bill with two other winners of the annual contest.
But Brodheim recently had an opportunity that might have induced a less steely lampooner to soften the blows in a script that envisions the actors playing Spidey and his nemesis, the Green Goblin, stranded in midair for the full 25-minute running time after yet another mechanical malfunction.
Philip William McKinley, hired to fix the Broadway staging after the ouster of original “Spider-Man” director Julie Taymor, read The Times' story on Brodheim’s imminent Hollywood opening. McKinley contacted Brodheim, and soon the young playwright and two of his buddies from Hunter College High School were occupying prime seats at the Foxwoods Theatre as guests of the director, watching actors zip over their heads.
“It went from being the best show on Broadway to the worst every couple of minutes,” Brodheim reported, giving thumbs way up for the technical production but adding that “during the scenes of dialogue and some of the songs, it was probably near the bottom.”
Of greater potential significance to the staging could be an offer from another reader of The Times story. Judith Flex Helle, founder and leader of Luminario Ballet, a Cirque-like aerial dance company based in the San Fernando Valley, happens to be Brodheim’s cousin. She told him there was no way his show’s $70 production budget would get the actors airborne and offered gratis use of her company’s flying gear to keep his protagonists aloft.
Daniel Henning, the Blank’s artistic director, said it has yet to be determined whether the ceiling at the Stella Adler Theatre can bear the equipment's weight. If not, he said, the fallback –- no pun intended –- is “a very simple theatrical conceit” that he prefers not to give away.
While the actors may not soar, the harmonies surely will when David Crosby and Graham Nash perform an acoustic benefit concert for the Blank's 20th anniversary season, July 17 at the Music Box Hollywood. Tickets go on sale Friday at 10 a.m. via the Blank's website.
[For the record, 4:15 p.m. June 8: An earlier version of this post referred to Brodheim's play as "Spider-Man: Turn Off the Lights."]
-- Mike Boehm
Photos: Adam Brodheim, top; scenes from "Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark." Credits: Jennifer S. Altman (top); Jacob Cohl.