Supervillains Anonymous

Photo by Jeani PisachubbePity the poor supervillain: trapped in a world that hates and fears you, surrounded by anonymous lackeys who can't seem to accomplish the simplest tasks, you're forever doomed to look on helplessly as self-righteous do-gooders foil your supposedly fool-proof plans. It's enough to make even the toughest would-be tyrant long for the gentle comforts of a juice box and a nap.

That's the premise of Jeff Kriese and Nick Armstrong's wickedly funny Hospital Overlord, at the University Players' Theatre at Cal State Long Beach as part of the third annual Summer Fest. Set in a therapeutic center for the treatment of "world domination syndrome," Kriese and Armstrong's joke-laden script is presented as an elaborate de-motivational seminar, run by the affable Doc (Kriese), that's designed to divert would-be conquerors from pursuing their nefarious schemes by distracting them with arts and crafts, games of Risk and mix tapes. If anything, the resulting play is even sillier than this ridiculous premise suggests, with scheming malcontents like the Imposter (James Adomian), the Oceanographer (Jack Grigoli) and the Landlord (Shannon Marcee Saenz) conspiring to thwart Doc's elaborate computer-controlled system (Jessica Variz's coolly delivered Daily Reminders are particularly effective) and escape into the real world. Complicating things is the arrival of a limping doctor of dance therapy (Armstrong) with grand plans of his own.

Chock-full of hilarious grace notes, like the Oceanographer's "high-tech" rolling kiddie pool, a power glove "set to bitch slap" and gratuitous use of Orff's Carmina Burana (not to mention Styx's "Mr. Roboto"), Hospital Overlord is a wildly over-the-top circus of comic invention. The uniformly excellent cast appears to be having a blast, with standouts including Adomian doing a spot-on Vincent Price impersonation and Kriese seemingly channeling the spirit of The Kids in the Hall/News Radio's Dave Foley into his performance as the unflappable Doc, no small feat when you consider … Dave Foley is still alive!

Like most supervillains, Hospital Overlord can be long-winded; the product of a lengthy workshop process, the play still clings to some bits that probably should be discarded. But the whole glorious mess is delivered with such manic energy and amiable, infectious glee, that it's easy to overlook the occasional stinker.

Hospital Overlord at the Cal State Long Beach Players' Theatre, 1250 Bellflower Blvd., Long Beach, (562) 985-7000. Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m. Through Aug. 23. $13-$15.


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