Captain Superlative Synopsis

(Note: This is a synopsis of CAPTAIN SUPERLATIVE, the play.  Not to be confused with CAPTAIN SUPERLATIVE, the novel.  While the novel is based on the play, it follows a slightly different, more extensive narrative.)

Janey recounts the story of how one day, amidst gossip and speculation, an anonymous student showed up to school dressed like a superhero. That night, Janey tells her father what happened. He is bemused and speculates about Captain Superlative’s origin story. The next day, Captain Superlative zooms through the hallways, performing various random acts of kindness. Everyone is a bit baffled by this bizarre behavior, especially Dagmar, the school bully. Janey’s father asks Janey if she knows Captain Superlative’s secret identity. Janey admits that she has no idea. Her father suggests that most superheroes have identities that are entirely ordinary. Janey points out that most people in the school are entirely ordinary and anonymous. Even she’s anonymous and content to remain so.

The next day, as Janey watches, Dagmar bullies a girl named Paige. Paige comes from a poor family and they can’t afford to buy her the popular Blue Shoes everyone is wearing. Captain Superlative intervenes, standing up for Paige. Dagmar attempts to take off after her, but Captain Superlative greets every insult with kindness. Having witnessed the entire thing, Janey resolves to learn Captain Superlative’s secret identity. After school, Janey follows her from the school grounds. She witnesses more random acts of kindness as Captain Superlative walks to a hospital. Janey waits outside, remembering how her mother once went into a hospital, never to come out. Eventually, Captain Superlative reappears with her parents. Janey follows them home and sees a name on the door: Lee.

Rushing to the library, Janey looks through a yearbook. Captain Superlative appears behind her. She tells Janey she knows Janey’s been following her and asks why. Janey admits to being curious. Captain Superlative tells her that if there’s anything she wants to know, she only has to ask. Janey loses her nerve, but later that day, she sees Paige being picked on by Dagmar. Absently, Janey tells Dagmar to knock it off. Captain Superlative witnesses them exchange harsh words. She joins Janey in defending Paige and is incredibly pleased with Janey’s nerve, declaring that Janey shall be her sidekick.

Later, Janey tells her father about the events of the day. He’s pleased to hear that she stood up to Dagmar’s bullying, but Janey is nervous about what it will do to her blissful anonymity. Just then, Captain Superlative arrives for Janey’s first night of training. Janey questions her, unable to understand why she’s doing something so ridiculous. Captain Superlative replies that someone has to do it. They get into a heated discussion about the nature of doing good. Gradually, Janey begins to realize that if everyone says it’s not their place to do good, then no one will.

Captain Superlative and Janey team up to battle the forces of evil within the school. Janey starts to notice more people taking part in random acts of kindness. But then, one day, Captain Superlative doesn’t show up to school. Janey goes to the Lee House. Captain Superlative’s mother explains that Caitlyn has leukemia and is dying. Janey goes up to see Captain Superlative. As they talk, Captain Superlative reveals that part of the reason why she chose to don the superhero persona was because she’s afraid. Superheroes never seem to be afraid. Janey feels betrayed by this information.

Janey tries to return to her regular life, but things have changed too much and she’s lost her anonymity for good. Dagmar picks on her relentlessly and no one comes to her aid. Paige finds Janey. They talk about how unfair it is that Dagmar can get away with that kind of behavior. And Paige points out that she’s been getting away with it for years because no one stops her. Just like how no one stops Dagmar’s father from picking on her. Janey realizes that she’s always been a bystander and she starts to regret the pain that she caused Paige without even realizing it.

That night, Janey visits Captain Superlative’s house. The two of them talk, Captain Superlative dully owning up to not really being a superhero. Janey counters that she is. Janey just didn’t realize it at the time. She apologizes for the things she said. Although she wants things to go back to the way they were, Captain Superlative tells her that there’s a reason superheroes train sidekicks. Eventually, someone else has to take up the mantel.

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