Challenge Accepted

Magic Smoking Monkey Theatre pays tribute to the Superfriends

Challenge of the Superfriends: LIVE!

ArtLoft Theatre (1529 Washington Avenue)

8 and 10:30 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, May 14, 15, 21 and 22. Tickets are $10 to $15 and reservations are strongly recommended (314-361-5664).

When preparing for a stage role as the Flash, a background in Shakespeare is helpful, if for no other reason than an established comfort level performing in tights. However, even a full-time gig performing works of the Bard does not keep a theatrical company stocked with enough spandex-type clothing to mount a live rendition of the Saturday-morning cartoon Challenge of the Superfriends. So to clothe the likes of Batman, Robin and Wonder Woman in Challenge of the Superfriends: LIVE!, the Magic Smoking Monkey Theatre (an offshoot of St. Louis Shakespeare) needed an unusually large (for the MSMT) budget.

Founded seven years ago for theatrical endeavors that would be "a little offbeat, sillier and less labor intensive," according to artistic director Donna Northcott, MSMT was a way for actors to blow off steam without losing too much money. "It wasn't our intention to be what might be considered 'quality' theater," Northcott confides. And with minimal money and effort (but maximum imagination) behind props, costumes and effects, the troupe has accidentally made a financially successful habit of skewering the pop consciousness of a generation. Superfriends follows the tradition of past shows such as Planet of the Apes and last year's runaway hit One-Hour Star Wars Trilogy: LIVE!, simultaneously paying loving homage to and mercilessly deconstructing your favorite twentieth-century myths. Why, you ask? Because, Northcott explains, "Things you loved as a kid, you look at as an adult and say, 'Oh my God, it's so lame.'"

Challenge will stick to two "classic" story lines, and though the script is a fiercely guarded secret, Northcott has promised a thrilling underwater battle between Aquaman and a giant prehistoric water dinosaur. With a pre-show trailer of Speed Racer: The Mammoth Car (pictured), an evening at the theater is just the emergency injection of culture your sorry butt needs.

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