The time has come to choose sides.
Do you talk like you’ve had a throat infection for several weeks? Do you emphasize the pairing of “a” and “r” every time they appear in a word? Do you wear stylish women’s belts over your T-shirts? If so, then you, my friend, are a pirate.
But if you employ pyrotechnics every time you exit a room, if you bandage parts of your body purely for aesthetic purposes, and if you wear black pajamas to work, then you, my friend, are a ninja.
The Overtime Theater’s rollicking new original musical imagines a matchup between these two distinct yet related camps in Pirates vs. Ninjas. The clans have apparently been feuding for quite some time, in between selling knick-knacks from their kiosks to unsuspecting tourists. There is trouble brewing for both gangs when Miko, the Ninja Princess, returns from ninja boarding school and decides she wants to go to college. Bowen, the Pirate Prince, has come to a similar conclusion, defying his father’s wishes that he remain a pirate. Bowen and Miko meet at school and fall instantly and madly in love, each unaware that the other is the sworn enemy of their people. When they finally do discover each other’s true and unfortunate identities, it matters not, for their love is stronger than family grudges. This is not the case with the rest of the pirates and ninjas, though, who are livid at the thought of one of their own befriending their rivals. Miko and Bowen are too connected to abandon their love, so the battle rages on with song, dance, drama, romance, daring swordfights, and a slew of witty puns.
This Romeo and Juliet-esque tale of “sword-crossed lovers” was written by the Overtime’s own Scott McDowell, who also penned Frankenstein in Love and All Kinds of Hot for the theater. The script makes full use of the opportunity for silly jokes about ninjas and pirates, but fortunately, McDowell does not rely on cheap laughs alone to carry the show.
The cast is used to improv and has excellent comedic timing, so one-liners like, “I was the first person to kill with actual cereal,” and “Let’s turn on the news, and every time Obama says ‘hope,’ take a drink!” are carried out with excellent
Overtime founder John Poole plays the Pirate King with an enthusiasm to rival that of Richard Simmons. His wife is played by Jules Vaquera, whose lovely voice helps carry some of the musical numbers. Miko, played by Christie Walheim, is naïve, lovable, and extremely expressive, while her Pirate Prince, Chris Berry, is charming, roguish, and has a voice that can make the ladies melt.
Though the thrown-together feel of the Overtime is part of its charm, the show could benefit from spotlights and microphones on some of the quieter singers. The scenes are short and cinematic, and though the pace and energy is maintained throughout, the choppy nature of the script grew tiresome at times. Nonetheless, it’s apparent that this is a group of improv experts, because the few technical and line flubs they encountered were incorporated into the show in a way that only added to its humor.
Amidst all the singing, fighting, and laughing, Pirates vs. Ninjas seems to have a real message to impart. Perhaps it’s about the dangers of judging others too quickly, or the power of love even in the face of adversity. Or perhaps it’s that Skittles can prevent scurvy.