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The Double at Babes With Blades | Theater review

Barbara Lhota’s backstage comedy shows its work.

Photograph: Johnny Knight
Gillian N. Humiston and Brendan Hutt in The Double at Babes With Blades

The latest from Babes With Blades has less fighting than you’d expect, especially from a troupe whose raison d’être is stage combat. Not to mention that the play is a backstage comedy about a troubled production of Cyrano de Bergerac, which should provide ample opportunity for gratuitous swashbuckling. Playwright Barbara Lhota throws in a few desultory, hey-let’s-practice-that-sword-fight scenes, but violence designer Libby Beyreis only gets to choreograph one full-scale knock-down-drag-out: a slapstick battle in which a single actress must play a whole army of Spaniards crossing blades with Cyrano in a performance before Hollywood bigwigs.

The rest of Leigh Barrett’s staging rarely has the same panache. Lhota sets the action in 1940s New York and adopts the style of the period’s screwball comedies. Movie people have descended on Broadway in an effort to give their careers a boost, and during the course of rehearsals, each develops romantic feelings for someone else in the cast. Notably, a stunt double (Gillian N. Humiston) falls for the actress playing Roxanne (Kimberly Logan) and ends up indirectly pitching woo to her à la Cyrano.

This relatively earnest subplot aside, things get very zany very quickly, and instead of making it look easy, Barrett’s cast sweats and strains. The same goes for Lhota, who has dug up a lot of hard-boiled ’40s slang and intends to use every bit of it, no matter how awkward the dialogue gets.

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