Babes With Blades | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Babes With Blades

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Babes With Blades, Footsteps Theatre Company. It was inevitable that Footsteps Theatre's extensive ranks of fight-trained women, led by resident choreographer Dawn "Sam" Alden, would take advantage of the heightened interest in stage combat sparked in the early 90s by Powertap's three Night at the Fights shows. Last spring's workshop performances of an all-female showcase of martial art, Babes With Blades, sold out, and now they've reworked this highly successful concept for an extended run.

The current show is considerably tighter and more focused than last spring's. It consists of a bare eight scenes--though the show's format allows for additions--in a variety of fighting styles, from ritual dance (as in the slow-motion Filipino "Kata" and the more robust Brazilian "Makulele") to silent-movie slapstick and a jolly hair-pulling melee at a Filene's Basement bridal gown sale.

Also in evidence is increased attention to scripting. Pure movement, no matter how graceful or agile, ultimately grows tedious, and a narrative, however spare, provides a context. These original scenarios, incorporating clearly defined characters, sharply timed dialogue, and a number of unexpected plot twists (the punch line in the creepy/funny "Cast Into Eternity" is by itself worth the ticket price), facilitate our enjoyment of a virtuoso spectacle unfolding only an arm's length away (front-row spectators, be advised). --Mary Shen Barnidge

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