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  WINDY CITY TIMES

Fight Girl Battle World
THEATER REVIEW
by Mary Shen Barnidge
2013-05-29

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Playwright: Qui Nguyen. At: InFusion Theatre Company at Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont Ave. Tickets: 773-975-8150; www.infusiontheatre.com; $25. Runs through: June 16

A playwright affiliated with an existing theater company enjoys the luxury of an artistic staff already attuned to their resident wordsmith's literary voice. The disadvantage is that resident scribblers can grow lazy, writing scenarios rather than finished scripts, while trusting to the performers' familiarity with their author's aesthetic to bridge any gaps.

Qui Nguyen has forged his career on satirical action-movie parodies whose comic-book violence is a vehicle for serious social messages. The allegorical arc in this midwest premiere spoof of space opera epics, however, risks being obscured by a plethora of motifs: zoologically diverse standards of beauty (our babelicious heroine has never had a boyfriend, the reptilian community where she was raised finding humans "unattractive") and gender-bending aliens (a character who looks like a female earthling in every way is actually male). We also get cute androids with prissy English accents, starship dogfights, grotesque mutant villains, road-runner chases, and a lesson in extraterrestrial cussing before the denouement reveals the purpose of it all.

This is a lot of metaphor to absorb in one sitting. (Did I mention the shout-out to Isaac Asimov? Or the lucha libre wrestling match with the many-eyed and tentacled wide-mouth monster?) It's better, instead, to suspend your disbelief across the board and embrace the spectacle offered by a dramatic genre where characters are shot multiple times, only to return unhurt in the next scene, assisted by a "flying" squad of black-clad koken and a stageside foley operator supplying aural punctuation. The endlessly inventive design team serves up a kaleidoscopic collage encompassing strobe lights, life-sized puppets, video projections, acrobatic combat, and a day-glo spandex wardrobe—courtesy of, respectively, Charles Cooper, Kimberly G. Morris, Rasean Davonte Johnson and Anna Henson, David Blixt and Rachel Sypniewski.

You wouldn't expect such a tech-heavy show to ask anything of its actors beyond the stamina and agility to stay the course to the end—certainly not the charm of the anime-adorable Sheila O'Connor and Zach Livingston as a reluctant couple assigned the task of preserving their species, nor the dry humor dispensed by their allies, Rob Grabowski, Kimberly Logan and Josh Hambrock (but look for the femme-and-butch dialectic of Elise Mayfield and Meredith Rae Lyons' gleefully "blarky" villainesses to steal the show). Anyway, it's summer, and if blasting rayguns, ass-kicking chicks and bug-eyed monsters dying in spasms like cockroaches is your cup of Cassiopeia, this is your kind of entertainment.


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