Playwright Qui Nguyen takes an enthusiastic geek-culture approach to theater. In practice, that can result in charming and heartfelt storytelling that also serves as a gateway drug for fanboys, as in She Kills Monsters, the RPG-themed breakout hit of this year's Steppenwolf Garage Rep. Alternately, it can manifest as insidery and alienating, as it did in Theater Wit's 2007 production of the superhero saga Men of Steel. (If nothing else, the New York–based writer, a prolific force in the downtown scene there, deserves to be produced more often in Chicago so I'd have more examples to draw from.)
InFusion Theatre Company's Chicago premiere of Nguyen's 2008 sci-fi comedy Fight Girl Battle World hews to the alienating side, for reasons that are as much the fault of director Mitch Golob's production as they are the script's. The story, which piles on references to Star Wars and a million other recognizable franchises, involves E-V (Sheila O'Connor), the last human female in the galaxy, being rescued from life as a prize fighter on Battle World by General Dan'h (Rob Grabowski), the very being who was responsible for the human genocide. Dan'h is now working with a faction of rebels against the corrupt government of the United Galactic Alliance, and wants to unite E-V with Adon-Ra (Zach Livingston), the last human male, to give the species a second chance.
Why the change of heart? We never find out. And while the overt labeling of a second-act, pre-planetary-raid scene as the "Obligatory Training Montage" is worth a chortle, it doesn't scan that undefeated Battle World bad-ass E-V is suddenly in need of battle training.
To be fair, Fight Girl Battle World feels like something Nguyen probably wrote as a late-night lark, and it offers a decent helping of moment-to-moment laughs. But InFusion's production compounds my quibbles with its egregious pacing problems (including awfully clunky scene transitions hampered by Dave Ferguson's awkward bilevel set design), sloppy puppetry and slipshod fight choreography. There's some clever use made of black-clad koken to enhance the action, but the final battle sequence devolves into indistinguishable chaos.