Chicago Tap Theatre’s latest, “The Hourglass in ‘The Stop-Time Chronicles, ” could quite possibly be Chicago’s first full-length, alternative music, all-movement, no dialogue, superhero tap-dance opera based on an imaginary sci-fi comic strip (“The Hourglass”). This time around, director and choreographer Mark Yonally, also CTT’s artistic head, has teamed up with Chicagoan Andrew Pepoy, an illustrator and artist with impressive credentials at Marvel, DC and other comic book publishers. The result of this unorthodox yet inspired artistic union is Chicago Tap Theatre’s best and most fully realized story show to date, a deliciously camp, choreographically satisfying and sometimes moving dance dramedy with a killer soundtrack. The story, even by comic book standards, is thin: when mild-mannered housewife Elizabeth Marston discovers that her fancy footwork can amazingly alter time, she creates a super heroine alter ego, The Hourglass, in order to stomp out a trio of sexy villainesses. The characters have silly names like Danse Macabre and Killjoy, the mise en scène is appropriately comic booky, with wild stage tableaus soaked in vibrant splashes of colors and boasting inventive costumes. The narrative is propelled—as it is in a comic book—by thought balloons and captions, here projected onto a screen above the dancers’ heads. The cumulative effect is that of a comic-book page sprung to vibrant theatrical life. Yonnally’s choreographic trademark of stamping on the downbeat and thumping as often as it is tapping avoids monotony because it doubly serves the storyline’s superhero histrionics as well as recognizable human emotions like yearning and frustration, not to mention a subtle hint of spousal abuse. Amidst the whizbangery the dancer-actors make endearing impressions, and an eclectic soundtrack featuring everything from post punk to new age to electronica, is worthy of burning onto a disc for repeated listening.
“The Hourglass in The Stop-Time Chronicles” runs at the Ahtenaeum Theatre, 2936 North Southport, (312)902-1500, through July 29.