As the cover of the program says, The Lady Demands Satisfaction is “a Jolly farce.” This phrasing is apt: not only was the play penned by Arthur M. Jolly, winning him Babes With Blades’ Joining Sword & Pen playwriting competition for the third time, it whistles gleefully along such that even the darkest moments have a lighthearted twist. In the words of Stephen Sondheim, it is “something familiar, something peculiar, something for everyone: a comedy tonight!”
Artful Acting, Farcical Fun
Under the skillful direction of Babes With Blades ensemble member Morgan Manasa, the cast delivers a laugh a minute. Whether it’s slapstick shenanigans or quick-fire costume changes, mistaken identities or amusing malapropisms, these actors bring a sense of humor and joy to every scene.
Deanalís Resto is captivating in the lead role of Trothe, an ingenue with a fierce side. Megan Schemmel inspires giggles and gasps as Trothe’s imperious, touch-averse aunt Theodosia, master of both the blade and the aristocratic put-down. Linsey Falls as family lawyer Abernathy is a virtuoso of mansplaining, earnestly warning female characters not to concentrate too hard on complex matters, ‘lest their brains overheat.’ And Amanda Forman simply astonishes as Prussian swordmaster Luitger: unhampered by their dialogue being entirely in German, they convey fine shades of emotion and meaning (even to exclusively anglophone audience members) through tone, expression, body language, and the odd English cognate.
Yet among a host of fine performances, Kate Booth and Ari Kraiman steal the show as Penelope and Tilly, Trothe’s favorite and second favorite servants—though in one of the play’s running jokes, these rankings alternate from moment to moment—who can add but not subtract, and subtract but not add, respectively. Scheming to save their mistress from the untenable options of a loveless marriage, the nunnery, and a duel to the death, they concoct a plan both brilliant and absurd. Along the way, Penelope embarks on a love story of her own, while Tilly nurses a growing ambition for independence. Suffice it to say, the servants’ narratives are every bit as engaging as those of their social ‘betters.’
Babes With Blades Displays Trademark Heart and Wit
While Trothe’s desire to keep her home and marry her sweetheart drive the main plot, many different kinds of love animate this production. There is Penelope and Tilly’s camaraderie. There is their affection for the young woman they take care of and hers for them. There is Trothe’s warm admiration for Theodosia and Theodosia’s protective if slightly chillier reciprocation. And there is the growing chemistry between Penelope and Luitger, the suitor she had originally recruited for Trothe.
Defying the legal and social strictures placed upon them, the women in The Lady Demands Satisfaction dauntlessly pursue their own goals. Trothe endeavors to learn all there is to know about swordplay in a week to defend herself. Theodosia, despite being the preeminent fencer in England (if not the world), deigns to throw a duel to help her niece. The pompous Abernathy learns his lesson about underestimating members of ‘the fairer sex.’ The happily ever after at the end goes not to the anticipated male-female couple, but to a proudly queer one.
If you come to the theater expecting historical drama full of tough ladies kicking butt and taking names, you will find Babes With Blades delivers a measure of it. But this is just one fraction of their latest smart, funny, powerful show.
Note: This is now added to the Picture this Post round up of BEST PLAYS IN CHICAGO, where it will remain until the end of the run. Click here to read – Top Picks for Theater in Chicago NOW – Chicago Plays PICTURE THIS POST Loves.
Deanalís Resto (Trothe)
Kate Booth (Penelope)
Ari Kraiman (Tilly)
Felipe Carrasco (Osric)
Linsey Falls (Abernathy)
Amanda Forman (Luitger)
Megan Schemmel* (Theodosia)
with Kim Fukawa*, Jennifer Mohr, and Bobby Hoffman (understudies)
Samantha Barr* (Production Manager)
Kayla Menz (Stage Manager)
Lauren Brady (Assistant Stage Manager)
Becca Venable (Technical Director/Sound)
Chas Mathieu (Set)
Carlie Casas (Costumes)
Stefanie Johnsen (Props)
Becs Bartle (Lighting)
Kenya Hall (Dramaturg)
Carrie Hardin (Dialect Coach)
* denotes BWBTC Ensemble Member
City Lit Theater
1020 W. Bryn Mawr Ave.
Chicago, IL 60660
Now through Saturday, August 25
Thursdays @ 8:00PM
Fridays @ 8:00PM
Saturdays @ 8:00PM
Sundays @ 3:00PM
Open Captioned Performances:
Thursday, August 9 at 8:00pm
Friday, August 10 at 8:00pm
Saturday, August 11 at 8:00pm
Sunday, August 12 at 3:00pm
This production uses realistic, bloodless staged violence and double-entendres of an adult nature in the telling of the story. Parental discretion is advised.
The author of this review is a personal friend of dramaturg Kenya Hall and has a keen professional interest in her work.
About the Author:
Harold Jaffe is a poet, playwright, amateur trapeze artist, freelance greeting card designer, and now, unexpectedly, a theater critic. He earned a BS in Electrical and Computer Engineering at Olin College and since returning to Chicago has worked extensively with Cave Painting Theater Company and the late great Oracle Productions. His chapbook Perpetual Emotion Machine is now available at Women & Children First, and his reviews of shows around town are available right here.