Are you anxiously awaiting the return of Battlestar Galactica? Do you consider Joss Whedon a personal hero? Do you ever find yourself wishing plays had more fight scenes, bigger guns, and killer montages? If so, drop your comic book/Guitar Hero controller/X-wing model and run over to Vampire Cowboys' latest production, Fight Girl Battle World. Actually, even if you're not into the sci-fi or fantasy scene – if you simply enjoy a good adventure with smart writing – Fight Girl is probably the most fun show you'll watch this year.
The play focuses on E-V (a sassy Melissa Paladino), a sort of futuristic gladiator on a planet called Battle World who believes she is the last human in the universe. That is, until she receives a surprise visit from General Dan'h (Temar Underwood), the former "Alliance" army leader responsible for annihilating nearly all of her species. Feeling a bit guilty about the genocide, Dan'h has decided to inform E-V that “there is another” (Star Wars references abound here) and wants to help her find the last human male to start procreating ASAP.
The "other" is Adon-Ra (Noshir Dalal), a mass-murderer who's slowly avenging the death of his species. With their names as a dead giveaway, the play cleverly uses Genesis as a springboard. Although I'm pretty sure that lasers, hamster-like aliens with German accents, and giant spaceships aren't included in the Bible, the theme runs throughout the play with a cute tie-in at the end.
Rounding out the gang that's hunting for the other half of humanity is Dan’h’s sexy – yet sexually mysterious – pilot, J'an Jah (Maureen Sebastian) and LC-4 (Paco Tolson), a sarcastic robot with a blue, Peter Brady-style mop. The entire team is delightful, with particularly hilarious turns from Underwood and Tolson.
In a funky pink wig that looks more club kid than space invader, Underwood has the appropriately exaggerated expressions of a comic book character. He also gives Dan'h an over-the-top unplaceable accent that's fantastically campy.
As LC-4, Tolson portrays the ‘bot like a dorky teenage version of Star Wars’s C-3PO. Always quick with a retort or a kazoo-like giggle, his LC-4 is an amusing blend of loveable and annoying.
As with most sci-fi stories, there has to be an omnipotent, generically-named government set out to destroy our heroes. In Fight Girl, this is the United Galactic Alliance. Its leader is literally a puppet monarch: created by puppeteer David Valentine, the Alliance's president looks and moves just like a Muppet (voiced by Jon Hoche). His underlings include Commander G'Bril (Andrea Marie Smith) and Mikah Monoch (a deliciously malicious Elena Chang).
Director Robert Ross Parker and playwright Qui Nguyen infuse every aspect of the show with the rock 'em, sock 'em action associated with comics. While we've seen countless films tackle the genre lately, Parker and Nguyen forego the pricey special effects of blockbusters with some amazingly creative choreography. Stunning scenes convey slow-motion chase sequences, zero gravity, and a particularly clever presentation of a shootout between three spaceships.
The set, developed by Nick Francone, serves as the perfect playground for the athletic ensemble. While one half of the stage contains the interior of a spaceship, the other side contains a sort of puppet theater box that covers the actors from the waist down, allowing for the choreography's many tricks.
Parker and Nguyen's commitment to comics is perfectly depicted in the final battle. In this scene, only two fighters are left to duke it out. To mimic multiple angles and frames at once, several different actors (all clad in the same costume and a glittery ninja mask) portray each character.
The show is indeed part homage to and part parody of sci-fi. Whether it's a training montage set to a Rocky tune or a groovy interpretation of “warp speed,” it never takes itself too seriously. However, beneath all the zaniness, Nguyen gives us a smart critique of our culture's obsession with violence. While satisfying our need to see fancy weaponry and some awesome take-downs, his universe reviles humanity for this very thing.