(l to r) Amanda M. Forman and Ari Kraiman

By Elizabeth Ellis

Part of the mission of Babes With Blates Theater Company is to explore theatrical violence as a tool for storytelling. To further this idea, BWBTC created the Fighting Words initiative, which helps playwrights develop new works that utilize physical conflict within the script. THE LADY DEMANDS SATISFACTION, by Arthur M. Jolly, is a recent product of Fighting Words, and reimagines a Restoration-era tale as a swashbuckling vehicle for some of BWBTC’s trademark fantastic stage combat.

The young lady Trothe (Deanalis Resto) learns that her father has been murdered – while taking part in a duel, he was stabbed to death by an unknown assailant. Trothe shockingly discovers the terms by which she can secure her inheritance and the ownership of the family estate: she must either marry a legendary Prussian swordmaster, or defeat him in a duel. Heartbroken, Trothe wonders what to do about her beloved, the poet Osric (Felipe Carrasco). Swooping in to aid Trothe is the finest swordswoman in the land, her aunt Theodosia (Megan Schemmel). Trothe’s two well-intentioned maids, Penelope and Tilly (Kate Booth and Ari Kraiman), plot to help Trothe by disguising Tilly with a giant mustache, making her appear to be the Prussian foe. The ploy works well, until the actual Prussian (Amanda Forman) appears, ready to duel.

In true BWBTC fashion, the fight choreography and stage violence, created by Samantha Kaufman, work beautifully. Kaufman utilizes levels, sword throwing, and multi-person fights with great fun and success. The rest of the play comes across unevenly. Jolly’s script follows the loony standard of traditional Restoration comedies, but for farce to work, the actors must make the absurd circumstances and the strange behavior believable. The cast is quite talented, to be sure, but the performances range from farce-appropriate to wildly over the top. There also isn’t a sense of consistent period movement – the poet Osric engages in extremes of physical expression, and while Carrasco is a wonderful performer, and his moves are striking and beautiful to watch, they look completely out of place compared to the choices of the rest of the cast. Some of the actors also speak their lines with such volume and exaggeration that they’re hard to understand. I see what director Morgan Manasa is trying to accomplish, and with some tightening up, this can be a wonderful modern farce. Jolly can also choose to provide the denouement in English instead of German. As terrific a performer as Forman is, a lot of what wound up the play was lost on the audience, despite Forman’s considerable efforts to communicate a lot of information in a foreign language.

THE LADY DEMANDS SATISFACTION showcases an opportunity for a fun story with wonderful stage combat from some very talented performers, and is appropriate for children as well.

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.