I met a friendly usher last week at Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark.
“Having fun?” Andy inquired as I stretched my Intermission Legs.
Several short exchanges later, Andy brandished the ultimate Spidey coup de théâtre: the words “RISE ABOVE” freshly tattooed along the inside of his forearm. Why the lyric, I asked? Turns out he’d been inspired by the resilience of ensemble member Chris Tierney. So much for Tierney’s much publicized near-death stage tumble–Andy told me Tierney planned to be back in the show by opening (March 15, i.e., The Ides of March). He had attended recent performances, and was “dancing in the aisles to show people how well he was doing.” “RISE ABOVE,” then, was a tattoo of solidarity. My usher-informant also had a “LiveStrong”-style rubber wristband that the whole company was sporting in support of theirbackbreaking cast mate. He couldn’t have been more clear: “Chris is my frikkin hero.”
“Rise Above” — one of the show’s several anthems — isn’t just a tattoo, a popish refrain, or a declaration of theme, it’s a reference to “Spider-Man’s” most exhilarating component part: flight.
You know it’s coming, you’ve read about the casualties, and the pre-show safety advisory (“DON’T TOUCH SPIDEY!”) has you all nervous, but hell — I dare anyone not to stupidly gawk when those actors crouch far upstage then pounce to the upper balcony. There is a palpable feeling of space breaking and theater transcending itself in these inspired moments. The nightly thrill of these maneuvers surely explains some of my usher’s enthusiasm.
As for the actual plot? Spidey fights shiny mutants, has an aerial make-out session, and proposes over canned pears– you know the drill. It’s mythic, if sometimes cryptic stuff. One wonders about the narrative integrity of a character’s descent “from the astral plane” via an arachnid ensemble shoe-ganza. (Zappos time!) And I’m still trying to figure out where that Nazis chorus came from. And where did it go?
But all this is really beside the point. It’s really all about the flight.