Review: Skyscrapers of the Midwest

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

Twelve-year-old Joshua W. Cotter's mother gives him a robot-shaped backpack. As much as he cherishes it, he knows that his merciless classmates would use it as another reason to ridicule him. The way he deals with the situation is one of several reasons to see Matt Slaybaugh's stage adaptation of Cotter's graphic novel "Skyscrapers of the Midwest."

Available Light Theatre's production puts two Joshes on stage. Acacia Duncan portrays the young boy, who grows into the adult artist played by Ian Short. As narrator, Short put things into perspective, examines the roots of artistic creation, and reminds us of both the value and the price of devotion to one's art.

Sometimes disjointed, the adaptation loses focus when it wanders away from the triumphs and traumas of Josh and his little brother, Jeffrey, impeccably played by Drew Eberly. Echoing "Calvin and Hobbes," Jeffrey and his toy dinosaur Rex (Jordan Fehr) live a vivid, fantastical world.

In a pivotal scene, Josh's artwork - hearts drawn around the yearbook picture of his crush, Mindy (Elena Perantoni) - betrays him. We later see how Josh works through the pain, reimagining the incident as a clash between superheroes.

The play's design elements - including Tony Auseon's creatures, Brant Jones' videos and the out-of-this-world costumes - contribute to this intriguing, if slightly flawed, comic brought to life.

Riffe Center, Studio Two Theatre

Through April 23

77 S. High St., Columbus