When executed properly, farce is one of my favorite genres. I love the slow build of dramatic irony combined with ridiculous situations and exaggerated characters; a narrative cocktail that usually culminates in a catharsis that is as hilarious as it is endearing. When I heard that the latest production from Babes With Blades was farce paired with the company’s signature swordplay, I was sold. Molière meets The Three Musketeers. Oscar Wilde meets Zorro. The concept is stellar, but The Lady Demands Satisfaction only somewhat capitalizes on the potential of its idea: the swordsmanship is razor sharp, but the comedy is ultimately dull.
The The Lady follows the story of Trothe (Deanalís Resto), a young heiress of her father’s sizeable estate. After her father is murdered by an unknown assailant in a sword duel, she discovers that the only way she can defend her inheritance is through trial by combat. This leaves Trothe with two options: either marry a famous Prussian swordmaster to champion the estate, or defeat the Prussian in a duel to prove her skill to those who might seek to take the estate for themselves. Trothe is not alone in her defence of her estate, however. Trothe’s Aunt Theodosia (Megan Schemmel) travels from afar to teach her how to properly fight, and Trothe's scheming maids, Penelope (Kate Booth) and Tilly (Ari Kraiman) disguise themselves as the Prussian envoy to stand in for the fight. Both plans are foiled, however, when the real Prussian swordsman shows up and complicates the situation.
As expected with Babes With Blades, the swordplay and fight choreography are top notch. From the first sabre drawing to the final sheath, the fighting is consistently excellent. The action is well paced and diverse enough to keep any one encounter from becoming dull; almost every fight scene ended with well deserved audience applause. The swordplay provides authenticity to the setting and adds to the immersion, something further amplified by the excellent costume and stage design.
It is unfortunate, though, that the technical proficiency of the stage design and choreography does not extend to the writing. There are two main issues with the show that prevent it from being as good at farce as it is at action: an excess of plot lines and pacing problems. Between the sword lessons from the aunt, the scheme of the maids, the romantic conflict of Trothe, the love interest of the Prussian (who only speaks in German the entire show) and the influences of Lord Abernathy, the number of plot threads to follow can be burdensome. This is not inherently a bad thing, however, when this level of complexity is a narrative base for jokes which vary from slapstick to fourth-wall breaks, the comedy can feel disjointed and flat. The number of plot lines stymies the comedic pacing necessary to be a truly hilarious farce.
On the whole, how you will enjoy The Lady Demands Satisfaction ultimately depends on what you are looking for. If you are hoping for a classic farce, you could potentially be left wanting a bit more. However, if you are looking for the signature action and fight choreography of Babes With Blades, you will not be disappointed.
Somewhat Recommended ★★✩✩
Review by Ryan Moore
The Lady Demands Satisfaction continues through August 25. More info here.
The Hawk Chicago is included in TheatreInChicago's Review Round Up.
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