Hot girl-on-girl action

Women At Arms Festival: Evening of One Acts

The Lady Cavaliers
Theatre for the New City
155 First Avenue (212/352-3101)
Equity showcase (closes October 26)
Review by Charles Battersby

For some reason violence is fun when it involves women hurting men. If Othello kills Desdemona, it's tragedy. If Desdemona strangles Othello, you gots pure comic gold there buddy. It is not logical, but it is often true. Perhaps this is why the Lady Cavaliers can be counted on for an entertaining evening of theatre, since they specialize in female stage combat. As part of their annual "Women At Arms Festival," they presented an evening of one-act plays, all of which involved women beating the crap out men and each other.

Starting off the night was Mrs. Garrud's Dojo, written, directed by, and starring Peter Hilton. Set in Victorian England, it's about a stuffy Britisher who runs afoul of suffragettes. Sort of Monty Python meets Susan B. Anthony. The dialog is amusingly British, with Hilton playing the hapless husband just a step away from Michael Palin. Although funny, the story is quite predictable (when Mrs. Harding drags her sexist husband to a jujitsu class for ladies, it's not hard to guess what's coming up). The inevitable thrashing that's handed out to the stuffy chauvinist was not only funny, but well-choreographed and seamlessly blended into the dialog.

The second play was the evening's weak link. This Side of Paradise, by Mariana Elder, is the tale of a teen-aged girl who gathers with her friends for some kick-boxing before the homecoming dance. Somewhere in this play is a message about how physical attractiveness and physical violence relate to a girl's social status, but that message is buried deep beneath the yappy dialogue, gratuitous violence, and gratuitous cleavage (not that anyone complained about seeing Carey Van Driest's cleavage).

Rikki G. Ravitts wrote, starred in, and directed the fighting in the third piece, Mlle. Maupin. The Lady Cavs were at their best as Ravitts faced off against a trio of 18th-century French scoundrels. Ravitts soundly thrashed her opponents with both her rapier-sharp wit and her rapier-sharp ... um ... rapier.

The final piece of the show was a lighthearted romp called A Silent Exchange, by Peter Hilton. Performed in the style of a silent film, with no dialog at all, A Silent Exchange features a silent film director who has to deal with a cast who are more concerned with killing one another than with filming their scenes. This wacky little piece had the cleverest fight scene of the night, when the "camera" started rewinding, and the cast repeated their fight choreography in reverse!

Although the Lady Cavaliers were a bunch of tough gals, they still liked to play dress-up. The costumes, by Robin Mates, were gorgeous! The Lady Cavaliers wore period costumes from four different times, and some of them even fought while wearing floor-length gowns (let's see Errol Flynn do THAT).

 Peter Hilton demonstrated impressive versatility in directing all four pieces, which ranged from farce to high adventure. Hilton also incorporated beautiful transitions, including a dance of the dead after Rikki Ravitts left the stage full of dead bodies at the end of the third scene.

Chicks with swords, gratuitous cleavage, swashbuckling action, and laugh-out-loud schtick. What more can ya ask for?

 (Also featuring Carrie Brewer, Amanda Barron, Judi Lewis Ockler, Mark Silence, Michael Jerome Johnson, Campbell Bridges, Barbara Brandt, Courtney Hogan, Carey Van Driest, Maggie Macdonald and James R. Robinson.)

  Box Score:

Writing: 1
Directing: 2
Acting: 2
Set: 1
Costumes: 2
Lighting/Sound: 1

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Copyright 2003 Charles Battersby