Jason O'Connell Talks Batman in "The Dork Night," Benjamin Evett Is the Ancient Mariner in "Albatross"

Batman swept Jason O'Connell off his equilibrium when he was just a lad, and he's lived to tell the tale, which he's enthusiastically spinning in The Dork Night right now at the Dorothy Strelsin Theatre.

For the extremely friendly and appealing O'Connell, Batman in his many film guises (Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer, George Clooney, among them), the comic book figure hasn't simply been a pastime. For him, the pointed-eared masked figure has been more like a case of WWBD--What Would Batman Do? Since he was 9 years old, he's asked the pressing question of himself whenever faced with a dilemma.

He's continued to employ Batman as role model right up to the present date when he's in his 40s. He's certainly relied on what he's learned for his several forays with the opposite sex. It's certainly been important for him, but not absolutely prohibitive, that the object of his affection is also a Batman aficionado--a Batwoman, you might say.

When O'Connell, born in Commack and educated at Hofstra, begins his peregrinations and his many actor impersonations, he seems to be launching into a stand-up routine. But as he keeps bantering, it becomes clear he's doing much more than that. As he roams the stage, like a medium-sized bear hunting his next meal, he's in the tell-all, confessional mood.

Another way of putting it is that, as directed by Tony Speciale, he represents that newer strain of stand-up technique: delving into the deeper needs behind getting up to tell jokes as a way of dealing with life. From that perspective, he's one of the immensely likable--in large part, for the honesty--compulsively introspective guys. By the way, his looks are one of the subjects raised, often when discussing his attraction to prospective lovers.

It doesn't take long, as he talks about coming to terms with his Batman fixation, to decide that looks don't matter when a fellow is this forthcoming and so consistently amusing while he's on about it. From any angle, he's a handsome fellow.
It's the rare high school graduate who doesn't know "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner," probably Samuel Taylor Coleridges's most famous poem. It's the one, it should be needless to mention, that includes the line "Water, water everywhere, nor any drip to drink."

With Albatross, at 59E59 Theatres, Matthew Spangler and Benjamin Evett choose to inform the audience right off that revered poet Coleridge homogenized the true story. To fill patrons in, Evett comes out on designer Cristina Todesco's nautically prepped 59E59 stage and goes into Coleridge's ignored details.

Gotten up like a grizzled mariner (Frances McSherry is the costumer), Evett hoists several sails before he says a word. Then the man recounts his adventures, right down to the penguins eaten when his stalled ship's supplies ran out. This mariner also makes a point of correcting any landlubber who assumes that those scurvy mates drink water--when, that is, water is available and potable. These hearty men drank rum exclusively.

Evett is an imposing figure of a man as he impersonates a mariner condemned to suffer after having shot an albatross. And as directed by Rick Lombardo, with lighting and projections designer Garrett Herzig also having a field day, the writer/actor has won Boston's Elliot Norton Prize for solo performance.

There may be Coleridge diehards who take umbrage at anyone's tampering with this classic, and the Spangler-Evett revise is undeniably presumptuous. All the same, in any collection of great English poems this one remains the same as it's been since the poet put it to paper. So it's good fun to go long with the hearty outing.