Last night I saw Fandom: Batman at the Hideout. It was, finally, a great show.
This was the third week of Fandom, with each week focusing on a new fictional world: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Harry Potter, Star Wars, etc.
And the directors are trying to do more with this show than just tell a simple, straightforward narrative. They’re trying, instead, to create a dynamic, ongoing interaction with the audience. The show is almost fully controlled by audience feedback and participation. The can “freeze” a scene at anytime to make changes or suggestions.
The first two weeks were solid improv shows, but they ventured into clusterfuck territory too often. Tonight, the cast finally struck an ideal balance between control and mischief. It was equal parts professional, slick improv and playful extravagance.
The narrative half of the show (the Hideout shows now have intermissions!) was the highlight. It was a tight, funny story about a doppelgänger Batman, played by the delightful Mia Iseman, and a robot-legged Batman, played perfectly by Aaron Saenz.
It was fat free and sleek, like a greased puma. The most uncomfortable moment was when one cast member accidentally flung a chair against the Penguin’s head. It looked painful.
The new downstairs theater at the Hideout is deceptively small. It seats around 80 comfortably, but the performance area is still tight. And to allow for better sight lines, they’ve added a two-foot platform, so improvisers are constantly stepping on and off it. It’s awkward. Maybe the entire performance area should be raised one foot. Someone is going to bust their ass hopping off that platform. It’ll probably be me.
Jordan Maxwell was a standout as Commissioner Gordon. But his funniest moment was his motivational speech as Batman. He didn’t tell a single joke in the speech; he just committed. And there’s a lesson there: commit to whatever you’re doing—act, dammit—and you’ll be fine. The laughs will follow.
Another great moment was when Mia Iseman, as a Batman imposter, opened her utility belt, expecting to find it empty. Instead, someone had stashed a cheap cardboard batarang in it. She feebly tossed it at her attacker. I squealed like a small child.
Aaron Saenz, a veteran improviser who’s recently returned from a long improv sabbatical, was the evening’s Batman. No one would’ve been better.
I give this show a 8.8 (out of 10).
Full disclosure: I’m in Fandom. But I wasn’t in this week’s cast; I watched from the crowd.