Review: THE INVISIBLE SCARLET O’NEIL at Babes With Blades Theatre Company

Review: THE INVISIBLE SCARLET O’NEIL at Babes With Blades Theatre Company

Pictured: Chloe Baldwin. Photo by Joe Mazza/Brave Lux.

By Elizabeth Ellis

Sometimes you need escapism. Sometimes you need to go out and sit in a darkened theatre and visit a world that is simpler and less scary and that makes you laugh and see women who are smart and self-reliant and unapologetically making their own decisions. If you’re in this expanding demographic, and you need a respite from resisting and fighting and calling and writing, then get yourself over to The Factory Theater and see Babes With Blades Theatre Company’s THE INVISIBLE SCARLET O’NEIL.

Barbara Lhota’s snappy and funny script, based on Russell Stamm’s comic strip, takes us to World War II-era Chicago. Scarlet O’Neil (the excellent wide-eyed heroine, Chloe Baldwin), whose father is a scientist, accidentally gets zapped with powerful beams (crossed streams!) in her father’s laboratory and discovers that she can render herself invisible at will. As she promised her father she wouldn’t use her new power, O’Neil conceals her newfound talent as she begins work as a cub reporter at the City Times newspaper.

Scarlet joins her partners in crime-fighting (the earnest and under-appreciated reporter Anesia Hicks, and wonderfully world-weary switchboard operator Lisa Herceg) and discovers a plot involving the nefarious Evanna Keil and her dimwitted assistant Judy (the hilariously evil Elizabeth MacDougald and the zany Ashley Fox, employing more malapropisms than even Norm Crosby) to use her father’s abandoned military experiment to create a lipstick, Ruby Red, that forces the wearer to follow Keil’s every order. Of course, Scarlet finds ways to use her superpower to thwart Keil’s dangerous plan. With assistance from a Hollywood actress-scientist (a sexed-up Herceg) and her landlady with a heart of gold (the tough and tender Lynne Baker), Scarlet, invisibly, manages to save the world from the actions of the red-lipped robots.

Leigh Barrett’s keen direction keeps pace with the rapid-fire style of dialogue without speeding past the ardently feminist messages at the foundation of the script. G. “Max” Maxin IV’s gorgeous back wall projections resemble a comic book brought to life, and operate as a character on their own. As this is a Babes With Blades production, violence plays a significant role in the staging, and Libby Beyreis’ sharp, fun and varied violence design doesn’t disappoint. THE INVISIBLE SCARLET O’NEIL will bring you a great story with terrific performances, beautiful visuals, and a brief but hopeful visit back to an era where the bad gals show us that crime doesn’t pay.

THE INVISIBLE SCARLET O’NEIL runs through October 14th. For more information visit BabesWithBlades.org.

About author

Elizabeth Ellis

Elizabeth is an actor, playwright, musician, and a graduate of De Paul University. She studied theatre and improvisation at the Second City Training Center, the Actors’ Center, and at the Royal National Theatre Studio in London. Elizabeth has performed with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Tympanic Theatre, Congo Square Theatre, Second City's Children's Theatre, Stage Left Theatre, Bailiwick Arts Center, and London's Canal Cafe Theatre. Six of her plays have been chosen as part of the Abbie Hoffman and the Around the Coyote festivals.

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