Youngblood Theatre hopes to draw a crowd with ‘Cartoon’

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The Youngblood Theatre’s presentation of “Cartoon” opens on Nov. 30. Photo via Facebook

If you didn’t watch Saturday morning cartoons as a child, life was probably pretty boring. Most of us remember watching our favorite superheroes kick butt and save the world.

“Cartoon,” the latest production by Milwaukee’s Youngblood Theatre, aims to be a grown-up version of our favorite TV shows – funny and entertaining but also, at times, violent and critical of society.

The premise of the play is simple enough. It takes place in ToonTown after a character called Trouble steals a giant hammer that the dictator Esther uses to keep order. Chaos naturally ensues.

Written by Steve Yockey, “Cartoon” may seem like a zany, goofy play due to its name and animations, but it actually deals with a lot of big topics. Its tagline, “A war on terror in ToonTown!”, neatly describes the dark tone behind the plot.

“It tackles a lot of questions, but it doesn’t hit people in the head in an obvious manner,” said Michael Cotey, the show’s director. “There’s no swearing or sexuality, but it’s very dark and very violent. It’s also in a dark theater, and the location fits the play really well. The audience in a way feels like they shouldn’t be there.”

The play includes a diverse cast of stock and stereotypical cartoon characters, including the anime girl, the superhero, the prince and princess and many others. They are supposed to represent different aspects of society, with characters like Esther as a “dictator” and Trouble as an “anarchist” wanting to cause trouble in ToonTown.

“It’s wild – it’s like watching 13 different plays all strung together,” Cotey said, adding that the play is supposed to be fast-paced, with different scenes moving quickly from one to the next and a runtime expected to hit only 70 minutes.

In order to help create the cartoon universe of the play, the staging includes several projected animations.

“One of the many elements are title cards, so it’s like flipping through different channels,” Cotey said.

Although the play features the element of animation, Cotey noted that it’s not the only unique element in the play.

“(The play) features a lot of things that we’ve never done before,” Cotey said. “It has original songs and singing and dancing. It has a lot of stage combat and gunfire. Being a small theater company, it’s one of our most ambitious plays yet.”

The play has been in rehearsals since the last week of October, but Cotey said the intention of doing the play had been in his head for about a year. He describes the concept as something that “sneaks up on you,” and the idea stayed with him until he was finally able to bring it to life.

“Cartoon” is playing in the Milwaukee Fortress, and tickets are $15. The play is set to premiere Nov. 30 and will continue its run through Dec. 15.

The play is not only anticipated by audiences but also by the castmebers and the people behind the production.

“We’ve been dealing with this play for so long that we already know every line and every surprise,” Cotey said. “So we’re excited to see how the audience will react to all of the surprises and unexpected scenes.”

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