“The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay” Produced by Book-It Repertory Theatre

I was not looking forward to this production. Five hours! Five hours long including two short intermissions and a 40-minute dinner break! I love theatre, but really, that’s expecting too much. How wrong I was. This is scintillating, emotionally powerful, entrancing theatre that speeds by.

Michael Chabon’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel (2001), has been a best seller for years. In it Chabon brilliantly interlaces two seemingly unconnected realities—the Golden Age of comic books and the rise of Hitler’s evil empire. Jeff Schwager adapted the book for this production.

It’s an epic saga in which love, sexuality, ambition, loss, war, and magic are all woven together. The story focuses on two Jewish cousins, one an artistic Czech refugee (Kavalier) and the other (Clay), an entrepreneurial dreamer and writer in New York. They create a new comic book: “The Escapist.” It features a many talented superhero that fights Fascism and all its evil components. Despite this success, Kavalier can’t be completely happy until he frees his family whose sacrifices allowed him, and only him, to escape from the Nazis. This is not an easy or inexpensive endeavor.

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David Goldstein, Opal Peachey, and Frank Boyd
photo by John Ulman

Book-It’s production directed by Myra Platt sparkles with good acting and terrific sets. For this play, the open Center Theatre is configured as a traditional theatre in the style of the 1930s with a wonderful Deco proscenium arch and deep blue velvet curtains separating audience from stage. The sets cleverly evoke the skyscrapers of Manhattan, interiors within the Empire State Building, as well as the streets of a post-war Levittown-like suburb. There are simulated subway rides and a plane trip, magic tricks to astound and delight. And throughout the production, music from the ’40s reinforces the sense of the era.

Frank Boyd as Kavalier and David Goldstein as Clay are fine foils for one another. They reinforce each other, yet each has private reasons for brooding silences as well as spirited enthusiasms. And Boyd’s mastery of magic is impressive.

Richard Arum as Sheldon Anapol, the gruff, loud, comic book publisher who gives them a chance but exploits them financially inhabits his role. He’s the epitome of the guy with the glad hand and warm heart whose self-interest is primary.

We first meet Opal Peachey, the love interest Rosa, in a state of undress. With or without clothes, she’s lovely to look at, and she gives Rosa just the right amount of piquancy mixed with vulnerability.

Sometimes, five hours is scarcely enough.

Through July 7 at Center Theatre at the Armory in Seattle Center, Seattle, (206 216-0833 or www.book-it.org

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