Fast forward to the year 2094, 75 years in the future when”Women of 4G,” presented by Babes with Blades, tackle Earth’s uninhabitable air.
Because of the arrogance and stupidity of our world leaders, the earth’s fragile environment has now been totally destroyed. With the planet’s atmosphere almost completely polluted, mankind is literally gasping its last breath.
In one final, heroic attempt to insure another 500 years of life, a team of seven superior female scientists and their lone male Captain, have been sent on a life-and-death mission into outer space.
Once into the cosmos, the crew of 4G plan to launch a lifesaving satellite, brilliantly developed by one their own, LT Wollman. This celestial orb promises to reverse the harmful gases and lethal rays that have destroyed earth’s precious oxygen supply.
But something else has gone deadly awry. At the top of the play, the audience learns that the ship’s captain has been murdered. Playwright Amy Tofte’s often funny, frequently violent feminist science fiction melodrama quickly evolves into an intergalactic whodunnit?
Like an interstellar Agatha Christie mystery, the women of 4G realize that one of them is a coldblooded killer. There’s enough motivation to implicate any member of this headstrong, hotheaded female crew, but who actually killed the commander?
Director Lauren Katz, working closely with gifted fight director, Maureen Yasko, and her talented assistant Kate Booth, has staged an exciting, edgy, sharply-acted production that delivers lots of passion and plenty of punches.
Tofte nicely drives her two-act sci-fi adventure to its sentimental climax but, sadly, Katz has missed some choice opportunities in her direction.
If the melodramatic elements were more strongly emphasized, the audience would enjoy this play as a parody of all those B-rated, 1950’s science fiction films. Certainly, Tofte’s script bears a resemblance to movies like Kurt Neumann’s “Rocketship X-M;” and, with a little more attention to the camp style of those low-budget movies, the laughs would be guaranteed.
On opening night, the audience, mostly comprised of Babes With Blades alumni, often guffawed in their delight; but if directed with a bit more emphasis on the schtick and hammy histrionics, this production would be even more fun.
The satire is unquestionably evident in the technical elements of this production. Elle Erickson’s red, white and blue space uniforms, each one different, seem inspired by Piet Mondrian’s abstract, geometric paintings. Jessica Baldinger’s sparse set design is simple, but easily adaptable.
With fine choreographed moves, the cast transforms the pieces into a variety of locales aboard the spacecraft. Gabrielle Strong’s splendidly atmospheric lighting is complemented by an appropriately hokey sound design created by Hannah Foerschler. And hats off to Auden Granger for an array of unique props that are as funny as they are creative.
The ensemble cast is excellent, each bringing her own special dramatic skill and comic talent to the story. BWBTC newcomer Ashley Yates is eloquent and iron-willed as Stark, the second in command officer. She plays a calm, cool and collected woman who effortlessly is able to adapt to sudden change.
Jazmin Corona is independent, determined and comically intense as Wollman, the passionate inventor of the satellite that will save all of humanity. Lakecia Harris, as Nataki, is both articulate and frighteningly forceful as the edgy, temperamental navigator of the 4G spacecraft. Together with Catherine Dvorak, as resolute, and deeply committed officer Baston, these two actresses share a love/hate relationship that carries them to the bitter end of this story.
Ensign Pierce, portrayed by pretty Jillian Leff, is the youngest member of the crew. She radiates a certain charming innocence and enthusiasm that makes her performance especially endearing. As Cava and Toulle, the ship’s two medical experts, Renee Lockett and Judi Schindler make a terrific team. Their banter and comic timing are perfect, especially as they’re carrying out a required autopsy on their deceased Captain.
Tofte’s exciting, often hilarious feminist space adventure has been brought to life by one of Chicago’s most dynamic theatre companies. Known for their edgy characters, over-the-top plots and combative action, this company is constantly helping to bridge the gap in gender parity.
Guided by guest director Katz, the play bristles with tension and sizzles with humor, although she does miss a few opportunities to take this parody to its maximum potential. For a Summer evening of high-tech melodrama, strong characterizations and unexpected laughs, theatergoers will enjoy becoming lost in space with the Women of 4G.
DETAILS: “Women of 4G” presented by Babes With Blades is at the Factory Theater, 1623 W. Howard St., Chicago, through Sept.14, 2019. For tickets and other information call (773) 904-0391 or visit Babes with Blades.
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