Babes With Blades Presents THE WOMEN OF 4G Review: Energetic Ensemble shines in Sci-Fi mystery

Babes With Blades presents The Women of 4G review: An energetic ensemble shines in sci-fi space mystery.

Deep in the vast darkness of space, with no means of communication, the all-female crew of Government Vessel 4G are faced with an impossible decision when their captain is found dead: abort their mission and follow protocol or carry-on and complete their world-changing mission. The stakes are high and tensions only continue to rise as the isolation stretches on and interpersonal conflicts begin to boil over.

Blades Theatre Company WOMEN OF 4G
Blades Theatre Company WOMEN OF 4G
(L to R) Renee Lockett, Jazmín Corona, Ashley Yates, LaKecia Harris and Catherine Dvorak

Babes With Blades’ production of The Women of 4G by Amy Tofte combines an energetic ensemble with continually rising tension and mystery. The play set 75 years in the future, begins with the death of the only man aboard; the captain. The crew discovers he’s been poisoned and First Officer Stark (Ashley Yates) must assume command. The women are at odds as to what to do- protocol dictates that they turn around but their mission to upload a new program to a satellite is time sensitive. Wollman (Jazmín Corona) particularly wants to carry on- she’s worked on the satellite program for years and wants to see it through. The youngest crew member, Ensign Pierce (Jillian Leff), however, seems to be keeping something from the rest of the crew. Emotions soon run high as the crew debates what to do and eye each other with suspicion as they investigate the unsolved murder.  In this sci-fi space saga the multi-layered mystery unfolds while also exploring the themes of women in power.

Blades Theatre Company WOMEN OF 4G
(Far left) Catherine Dvorak (From top to bottom) Jillian Leff, Jazmín Corona and La Kecia Harris

Simplified Sci-Fi

The stark white set, designed by Jessica Baldinger, contains 3 movable pieces that serve as everything from a control module to chairs, as well as an autopsy table. The costumes (designer Elle Erickson) consist of white jumpsuits with various colorful lines customized for each character’s role aboard the ship. Even the outerwear for a spacewalk is represented minimally though a translucent jacket. The props (designer Auden Granger) are all items familiar to the audience- devices that look like tablets are used for a variety of tasks including medical readings and ship programing, while wrenches and other simple tools are used to repair the ship. In this writer’s view, the effect of all these common, although striking, elements coalesce to form a simple, yet elegant sci-fi tale. The Women of 4G proves that you don’t need to show advanced technology or futuristic garb to tell a powerful sci-fi story. With all these tech elements simplified we, as an audience, are given the freedom to focus solely on the relationships and the story at hand.

Blades Theatre Company WOMEN OF 4G

Energetic Ensemble

Like this writer, you will likely agree that the relationships aboard the starship 4G are the highlight of this production..  For instance, Nataki (LaKecia Harris) and Baston (Catherine Dvorak) have a contentious relationship but must work together to keep the ship going. Harris and Dvorak bring their characters to life in the larger group scenes but shine even brighter when sharing the stage alone. Their storied history, while never discussed in detail, is fully realized in their performances. Together they exhibited some of the most successful fight choreography when their animosity towards each other finally boils over. Some of the other fights, in this writer’s opinion, seemed less impactful due to the close quarters at the Factory Theater. Cava (Renee Lockett) and Toulle (Judi Schindler) are the ships older, more seasoned doctors. Lockett and Schindler quickly draw us into their tight, years-long bond and provide much needed comedic relief throughout the play.

Director Lauren Katz creates a tightknit ensemble that builds and sustains the energy amidst some of the larger, more chaotic group scenes while still managing to showcase individual characters and actors in the smaller, two or three person scenes. Each crew member feels unique and entirely at home aboard the spaceship as the characters feel fully developed.

The Women of 4G also explores the hardships that women must deal with in the workplace; both the  obstacles that they’ve had to overcome just to be a part of the crew, as well as the self-doubt they face in regards to their ability to complete the mission are explored throughout the play. While each woman has faced numerous challenges including being constantly doubted and underestimated by the men around them, in the end it serves as a common factor bringing them together in their time of hardship. The patriarchy is not kind to women who make mistakes and all the crew members know it. Each has a different way of dealing with it, some throw themselves fully into their duties while others experience violent outbursts, and frequently these coping mechanisms lead to conflict as they are forced to consider the sacrifices they are willing to make for the sake of the mission. With such high stakes-a dead captain, no communication and the fate of the important mission on the line- this play takes the multitude of challenges women face today and brings them to the boiling point. The Women of 4G invites us to take a journey into the stars alongside the crew and experience their struggles and exalt in their successes.

This play is perfect for sci-fi fans and would be a great introduction to sci-fi theatre for anyone looking for a play with a feminist theme. This show would especially appeal to those who are already fans of franchises like Star Trek that similarly don’t always rely on the most high-tech effects but still tell a compelling story.

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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.

Cast:

Jillian Leff
Ashley Yates
LaKecia Harris
Jazmín Corona
Catherine Dvorak
Renee Lockett
Judi Schindler
Allison Dornheggen
Samantha Price

Crew:

Amy Tofte
Lauren Katz
Stephanie Mattos
Maureen Yasko
Kate Booth
Jessica Baldinger
Gabrielle Strong
Elle Erickson
Hannah Foerschler
Auden Granger
Sarah West
Anika Jones
Jeremiah Barr

When:

Thru September 14th
Thursdays-Saturdays at 8:00 pm
Sundays at 3:00 pm

Where:

The Factory Theatre
1623 W. Howard St
Chicago, Il

Tickets:

$15.00 students and senior
$28.00 general admission

Check for Half-Price Deals from Hot Tix:

For full-price tickets and ticket availability visit the Babes With Blades website or call 773-904-0391

All photos by Joe Mazza/Brave Lux

 

Editor’s Notes: The director of this play is a frequent contributor of Picture this Post theater and dance reviews. The author of this review, also an actress and director, had briefly collaborated with Lauren Katz in a short work that they co-directed at Prop Thtr.

Read the related story -- "Babes With Blades WOMEN OF 4G Preview—Conversation with Director Lauren Katz"

Note: Picture This Post reviews are excerpted by Theatre in Chicago

Photo: Brian McConkey

About the Author

Taryn Smith graduated from the University of Illinois at Chicago's BFA Performance program in 2011. After graduating, she co-founded Realize Theatre Group and served as Executive Director for the company.  She has filled numerous roles while with RTG both on and off stage including making her playwriting debut with her play America, Inc . She has worked as a stage manage, designer, director, and actor. Outside of the theatre world, Taryn is a licensed massage therapist.

Click here to read more Picture this Post stories by Taryn Smith.

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