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  WINDY CITY TIMES

THEATER REVIEW Fight City
by Mary Shen Barnidge
2017-08-02

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Playwright: Scott OKen. At: The Factory Theater, 1623 W. Howard St. Tickets: $25. Runs through: Aug. 26

Violent post-apocalyptic dystopias are hardly rare in fiction today, but what distinguishes Scott OKen's futuristic action-adventure fable from traditional speculations in this genre is that the dramatic question raised by its pessimism is not "How come I still can't get laid?" but "How do we fix the mess we got ourselves into—again?"

The circumstances leading to social regression, in this case, involve a widespread virus that left the majority of male survivors sterile. Without the advantages of testosteronic drive, men soon found themselves relinquishing leadership and power to women. Rather than forging a more compassionate community, however, unchallenged estrogenic fury made for lingering sexist exploitation and tyranny—initially invoked in the name of expediency—on the part of those profiting thereby.

At the start of our play, law and order in urban centers is enforced by an all-female legion of uniformed "peacekeepers" ( PKs ) armed with truncheons, fresh-from-the-spa grooming and no-restraint license regarding the subjugation of disobedient citizenry. Opposing them are a group of activist dissidents—mostly "seedless" men, but also including in its ranks a lone female sympathizer and an almost-extinct fertile male—crusading for equal gender rights, as well as a gang of "Slash Killers" ( SKs ) led by a rogue ex-peacekeeper in possession of illegal metal-based weapons, including a homemade firearm. Amid these warring factions is our hero, Peacekeeper Barbara Davies ( pronounced "Dav-iss," not "Dav-ees" ), whose prowess at containing crime in a civilization turned savage has not diminished her hopes for a more humane co-existence.

OKen's scenario might not be ready for a Hugo Award, but it serves as a pretext for the live-action video-game spectacle that constitutes Factory Theater's stock-in-trade. The stunt choreographers of this latest bash-and-smash spree are Chris Smith and Maureen Yasko of, respectively, Midsommer Flight and the Babes with Blades.

Familiar faces also appearing among the PKs and SKs are Kim Bolar as archvillain Erica and Jennifer Betancourt as the idealistic Officer Davis, though Harrison Weger makes an auspicious debut as a much-maligned male rookie. Jill Oliver's direction keeps it all from dissolving into chaos—barely—and front-row spectators will be relieved to know that the copious fake blood used in the show is the washable kind from Gravity and Momentum products.


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