A Night With the Fights

A Night With the Fights

By Mary Shen Barnidge, reprinted from Moulinet: An Action Quarterly – Number One – 2009

SHAKESPLOITATION!

A punch whose knap follows several seconds after the swing, but several seconds before the receiver registers the impact, establishes at the outset the tone of author Andy Grigg’s three Shakespeare spoofs, modeled on popular action-film genres — the ghetto-and-car-chase Grand Theft Othello, the makeup-and-body-parts Apocalypse: Romeo and Juliet, and the chop-socko Ninja Hamlet: Burning Fist of Denmark. But fight choreographer Chris Walsh’s biggest problem isn’t living up to the show publicity’s assertion that “The Bard is Baaadaass”, but doing it on the Gorilla Tango storefront cabaret’s stage — an arena barely larger than a hostess-waitstation with front-row tables and customers’ knees marking the boundaries of its apron.

Zombies of the Hollywood variety being uniformly big and hulking, the menacing creatures of Apocalypse are kept offstage (specifically, in the general region of the playhouse lobby — a tactic not uncommon to low-budget Blair Witch Project knockoffs), while Grand Theft relies on hand-to-hand spectacle choreographed in the patently artificial manner of the evening’s aforementioned opening sequence. Ironically, Ninja Hamlet presents the most ready solution to the safe-distance problem, thanks to the conventions introduced in the film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon dictating that magic, not muscle, decides the battle. Thus, blows and kicks launched on opposite sides of the stage (with appropriate vocal accompaniment) are understood to be fully as efficacious as those connecting at close range. This full-cast (and most extensively-conceived) of the three sketches finishes with a burst of adrenaline to send us home — or off to another Bucktown bar, anyway — happy and exhilarated.

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© 2016 Christopher M. Walsh