“It’s not who I am underneath, but what I do that defines me.”
Since the 2008 release of “The Dark Knight Rises,” the second film in director Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, these words have become ingrained in pop culture and for some, like Jason O’Connell, epitomized what those who grew up with the Caped Crusader had been taught since childhood.
“It made me think, maybe I could be the hero, maybe I could be Batman,” O’Connell said while introducing his one-man show, “The Dork Knight,” Sunday, April 13 in McKenna Theatre.
The show, a mix of memoir, comedy and personal revelation, chronicles O’Connell’s life as segmented by the release of Batman movies, beginning with Tim Burton’s 1989 “Batman.”
O’Connell provided background context and history on the different films’ conception, where he was in life when they where released and what they meant to him then and now.
As part of his performance, O’Connell adopted the character personas of the films, impersonating the actors’ portrayal of them and utilizing their voice to project what he himself was feeling in his life at the time. What resulted was a creative and deeply personal expression of self-reflection and scrutiny in a cleverly indirect yet direct way.
Heath Ledger’s Joker reveals ugly truths O’Connell wants to deny, while Jack Nicholson’s Joker inspires his desire to be indifferent to criticism. Christian Bale’s Batman speaks on matters of honesty and moral truth, Danny DeVito’s Penguin is a reminder of ugliness and rejection. To each of these expressions, O’Connell responds as himself, often coming to a realization that, as he explains, dictated his decisions and actions in given scenarios.
As is the nature of a one-man show, O’Connell’s self-awareness was paramount and oftentimes I saw through the use of the character personas and his addressing of the audience that his performance was closer to his remembrance of the past. This sense of fluidity and alive-ness is a rare and welcome attribute.
“Batman is what our best selves can be,” O’Connell concluded. “His all too imperfect desire to do good taught me to be a better man.”
O’Connell’s Bat-bond made me think of my own human merits and left me with a positive feeling. Not all men want to watch the world burn, and I was glad to be reminded of it.