At this stage in his career, showman-director Jaime Robledo (Stoneface) probably could stage the phone book and come away with a scintillating, invention-packed tour de force of visual wit, breathtaking acrobatic performance and sumptuous, seamlessly integrated, multimedia production design.
So it’s almost beside the point that Robledo’s latest production, Natsu Onada Power’s Astro Boy and the God of Comics, is also a poignantly whimsical and critically savvy documentary homage to the man many consider to be the Japanese Walt Disney — manga master and anime pioneer Osamu Tezuka (played by West Liang).
Though Tezuka may be less than a household name in the United States, the DNA of his most recognizable creation, the dough-faced, half-pint robot superhero Astro Boy (perkily brought to wide-eyed life by Heather Schmidt), can be found in anime ranging from low-budget cartoon schlock such as Speed Racer and Pokémon to the cyberpunk auteurism of 1998’s Serial Experiments Lain.
Power’s script counts down in reverse chronology as 12 anime-like episodes that work their way back from the final Astro Boy TV installment, through Tezuka’s origins as a manga artist, and ending on the searing national trauma of Nagasaki and Hiroshima.
In between, Robledo, an ensemble of Sacred Fools all-stars (with standouts Mandi Moss and Marz Richards) and a crack production design (including DeAnne Millais’ set, Matt Richter’s lights, Anthony Backman’s projections and Jim Pierce’s animation) — pump up Power’s text into a kind of high-wire — and highly polished — vaudevillian pastiche.
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GO! Sacred Fools Theater, 660 N. Heliotrope Drive, East Hollywood.; through July 25. (310) 281-8337, sacredfools.org.
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