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Inglourious Bitches
THEATER REVIEW
by Mary Shen Barnidge
2014-01-08

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Playwright: adapted by Glenese Hand from the screenplay by Quentin Tarantino. At: Bare Knuckle Productions at the Ravenswood Studios, 4001 N. Ravenswood Ave. Tickets: 773-998-2671; www.bareknuckleproductions.org; $10-$20. Runs through: Jan. 25

The so-called "fair sex" are no less prone to violence than the bold, nor are they incapable of pack-mentality slaughter ( consider Greek tragedies like The Bacchae ), but even today, playwrights stubbornly refuse to write the kind of two-fisted, free-fire, no-prisoners—you know, fun—roles for women that they do for men. When your protagonist is a guuurrrl, prevailing wisdom dictates that aggression must invariably be 1 ) initiated within the domestic sphere, 2 ) reliant upon sexual manipulation and 3 ) fueled by an obsession as petty as it is pathological.

So what are the increasing number of theatrical combat-trained young women to do? In the 1990s, the now-disbanded Footsteps Theatre Company, followed by the Babes With Blades, turned to all-female productions of Shakespeare and fan-fiction tales to strut their belle sabreur swagger. The artists of Bare Knuckles Productions carry this solution a step further, casting across gender and color lines in pursuit of spectacle combining badass broads, blood and bullets.

The 2007 Quentin Tarantino action flick Inglourious Basterds—itself a remake of a 1978 Italian potboiler—is the perfect vehicle for the Bare Knuckles aesthetic, as the World War II fantasy scenario revolves around two separate plans to assassinate the indisputably evil leaders of the Third Reich. One stratagem involves the owner of a movie theater hosting a premiere with Nazi VIPs in attendance; the other, a covert mission undertaken by a cheerfully amoral squad of all-American rowdies.

Veteran Chicago trouper Maggie Speer directs an unapologetically diverse ensemble led by Glenese Hand as a suave S.S. Commander and Sarah Nutt as his redneck Yankee nemesis, with Melinda Ryba and Lindsay Ashcroft playing femmes fatales ( whose wardrobes, replicated by Eli Borrowman, echo those of their cinematic counterparts ). There's no denying the DIY atmosphere invoked by an uncredited set design employing muslin curtains and manual scene-shifts, albeit enhanced by Jeremy Fodor and Keith Hand's incendiary aural and visual effects—but the low-budget ambience is quickly dispelled by the conviction that the array of Chicago newcomers invest in Tarantino's comic-book yarn. Whether you've never seen the movie ( like me ) or can sing along with every word, there's always an added thrill to the good kicking the butts of the bad when it's right in the room with you.


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