Do you love superheroes? Are you first in line for every big midnight premiere? Can you track your childhood using the releases of the Batman movies as major life moments? If so, The Dork Knight might just be the play for you. In a hilarious celebration of the Dark Knight and his fans, the play looks at the meaningful ways that our most beloved fictional characters can impact a real life.
Writer and performer Jason O’Connell takes us through the broad strokes of his life, punctuated by the releases of each Batman film, from Michael Keaton’s portrayal of the character to Christopher Nolan’s interpretation. Starting with his childhood, which he spent with his mother, sister, and grandparents after his father left them, O’Connell takes us through his relationships, both familial and romantic. Throughout, he turns to the various Batman actors and villains for life advice. He associates his serious relationships with Batman’s various leading ladies, allows Batman’s greatest foes to assess his own shortcomings, and draws inspiration from the Dark Knight himself when looking to the future. Disastrous as listening to the Joker’s advice might sound, the connections that he draws between the characters’ plotlines and his own life create a concrete, meaningful relationship between his world and Gotham.
O’Connell delves into his life with an honesty and insight that results in a funny but poignant look at the impact of fiction on individual lives. Directed by Tony Speciale, his intimate performance brings out the humor of the connections he draws between Batman and his life, keeping the audience laughing all while maintaining the contemplative and discerning tone that lends the play more significant dramatic weight.
His impressions of the various villains and heroes that populate the world of Batman capture the humorously reflective tone of the show perfectly, since they are funny in their own right while exploring the weightier thematic concerns of the impact of fiction on reality. His Michael Keaton impression was quite remarkable, and though a few of the others missed the mark a little, Zach Blane’s lighting design and O’Connell’s own self-deprecating jokes on the subject made them all the more comical.
A hilarious concept made profound with its vulnerable, honest performance, The Dork Knight is must-see theater for fans who grew up on superheroes, or, really, anyone who’s experienced the formative impact that childhood fiction had on their lives.