Mythology Theater Review: THE HISTORY OF INVULNERABILITY written by Robert Reineke April 12, 2014 Breaking new ground for Modern Myth Media, I’m pleased to present our first theater review. Only about 90 miles from C2E2, the Milwaukee Repertory Theater is staging THE HISTORY OF INVULNERABILITY by playwright David Bar Katz through May 4, 2014. The play is set just prior to Jerry Siegel’s death in 1996 and is set in his mind as he flashes through his (somewhat selective) memories of creating Superman, selling Superman for relative peanuts, the history of Superman, Jerry’s Jewish heritage, the Holocaust, and his failures as a friend and a father. The title could easily be THE HISTORY OF VULNERABILITY as Jerry is nothing like his creation, although he wonders if there must be some Superman in him for it to come out of him. There are a lot of ideas in motion as the play uses Superman as an exploration of much of the 20th century and it’s certainly not a fun romp. Superman is an inspiration, but he also didn’t bust down the gates of Nazi extermination camps in real life. Or the comics either. It’s not all doom and gloom either, there certainly are jokes and recreations of iconic moments of Superman. Superman himself is personified in the play and interacts with Jerry and the audience. It’s a play of selective memories as well as it examines the ways that we celebrate ourselves and castigate ourselves. Jerry Siegel is neither a saint nor a hopeless sinner, but rather a complicated man that had triumphs and failures and was forever overshadowed by his own creation as a young man. A creation that was taken from him through cynical businessmen. This is the third staging of the play and the first by a big, regional theater with a large technical budget. The stage features large projection panels hanging in the air, like falling panels of a comic book or shards of memory, and the production uses those panels to change setting, provide information, stage the destruction of Krypton, etc. as it jumps through the decades of Jerry’s life and recreates some of the exploits of his creation. It’s a very technically sophisticated staging by a theater team that made a celebrated adaptation of Moby Dick a few years back, and it’s often dazzling. But, as with any theater production, it all ultimately rests on the words of the playwright and the performance of the actors. Both sides have a lot to contribute. David Bar Katz is probing in his questions and doesn’t create a hagiography. The fact that Jerry basically abandoned his real-life son Michael, or perhaps “My Kal”, is not glossed over and is contrasted with Jerry’s concerns about having his fictional son taken from him. Jerry’s frustrations at not really having more than one great idea are evident, even as it’s clear that he loves his creation of Superman. And sometimes hates Superman as well. It’s a complicated relationship, and Jerry is well portrayed by actor Bob Amaral. Amaral’s Jerry Siegel is a shy man, full of stammers, and a lack of confidence. It’s to his credit that he becomes an intriguing, tragic figure. The audience spends over two hours in the head of and the life of Jerry Siegel and you never feel that you’ve plumbed all the depths of his soul. I don’t think the play comes together and is fully able to sum up Jerry Siegel and Superman, but that’s a tall task. It does ask a lot of the right questions though and examines an icon and his creator in a way that feature films or television are unlikely to ever do. As such, it’s a valuable contribution to the lore of Superman and superheroes in general and is well deserving of being sought out. Theater Review: THE HISTORY OF INVULNERABILITY was last modified: February 21st, 2016 by Robert Reineke Related Jerry SiegelThe History of Invulnerability 4 comments 0 Facebook Twitter Google + Pinterest Robert Reineke previous post UPDATED: GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY Incarcerated In New Image + 3 More! next post MMM Podcast #170: CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER Q&A You may also like Weekly Ratings Roundup: March 13 to 19,... March 20, 2016 Weekly ratings Roundup: May 14 to May... May 29, 2017 2015 in Review “It Was Time” January 1, 2016 It’s morphin time in new ‘Power Rangers’... January 19, 2017 Weekly Ratings Roundup: March 5 to 11,... March 12, 2017 Weekly Ratings Roundup: March 12 to 25,... March 26, 2017 Photos From The Floor Of SDCC 2014! July 24, 2014 42nd Annual Saturn Awards Nominations Announced! February 24, 2016 Weekly Ratings Roundup: February 19 to 25,... February 26, 2017 Vote for the 2016 Modern Myth Movie... January 9, 2017 stock No mention of Joe Shuster, Robert? Is he the friend that’s mentioned in the article? It always amazes me to learn of how a lot of these guys, from Bob Kane to Stan Lee to maybe Siegel, have a hard time sharing credit for these “modern myths” we’ve come to know and love. My understanding was that both Siegel AND Shuster got robbed by the corporation when Superman was bought. That it took years for DC to even give these guys by-line credit, and that one of them, not sure who, even took a stock-boy position after sale, just to get by. The comic book industry, when you get behind the glossy covers and into the truth of the business, has always seemed to be extremely cut-throat. From Siegel to Starlin to whomever is griping right now, someone is always being robbed, manipulated, or tossed aside once their creations and companies outgrow the need for them. Kind of sad, really. Robert Reineke Joe Shuster is in it, but the story is told from Jerry Siegel’s perspective. Notably, the same actor that plays Joe also plays Jerry’s abandoned son. I don’t think we need to read too much into that. stock Good review, Robert. Wish I could see it. Maybe someone will record it for DVD. Robert Reineke I expect that the play will get some stagings in regional theaters around the US in the coming years. It takes some technical prowess to pull off, but it’s an interesting play with a real hook to get people in the doors. Certainly with all the superhero cinema and television that we’re looking at, a play that goes behind the scenes of the creation of these “modern myths” is certainly relevant.