With its spray-painted Nerf guns and endless slo-mo fight sequences, the endearingly low-rent pastiche “Fight Girl Battle World” looks an awful lot like a spacemen-and-aliens schoolyard game. The cast and crew keep the show interesting with a level of martial arts professionalism seldom seen on the playground (hopefully), but don’t be fooled: Beneath all the charming kungfoolery, “Fight Girl” is a play about playing.
If you squint hard when viewing the Vampire Cowboys Theater Company production, you can see an especially absurd episode of “Firefly,” a glimmer of “Doctor Who” and a multiplex-full of “Star Wars” and “Star Trek” movies. Nobody could be happier about this than the audience on Saturday night: A joke about Asimov’s First Law of Robotics got bigger laughs than a joke about Arthur Miller’s “All My Sons.”
The plot, if you care, which you shouldn’t, goes something like this: In the far-flung, sight-gag-filled future, E-V (Melissa Paladino), the last human being in the universe, is pulled from her day job as a cage-match warrior to repopulate the human race with Adon-Ra (Noshir Dalal), the newly discovered other last human in the universe. Some things haven’t changed: Evil governments still hate freedom, and villains struck down in the first act are bound to become more powerful than you can imagine by the third.
But here we are discussing “Fight Girl” like it’s a screenplay when the best thing about it is that, for all writer Qui Nguyen’s film and television influences, the play is fun precisely because it’s stagebound. Onscreen, a marauding warrior might pull off his opponent’s arm and beat him with it, true, but it would probably look horrifying or at least gross. Here, even the stodgiest audience member giggles when the silhouetted Adon-Ra does just that. It would be stretching a point to call the move a coup de theatre, but it makes a lot of people laugh.
Most of the best jokes are director-driven — the play abounds with soundtracked fighting and fake-looking montages, and it marks the only good use of that Evanescence song we’re all trying to forget. But Nguyen’s script has its clever moments, too, many of which go to the android LC-4 (Paco Tolson), the play’s walking homage to “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” by Douglas Adams, to whom “Fight Girl” is dedicated.
“Am I dead?” the heroic, groggy spaceship captain General Dan’h (a magnificently bewigged Temar Underwood) asks LC-4.
“Yes,” LC-4 replies nastily. “You’re dead. You’re in heaven. It looks a little like a cockpit, but at least we’re together.”
With their last show, the comicbook extravaganza “Men of Steel,” the Vampire Cowboys figured they were into a good thing and have set out to mine it further. They get no points for discipline or structure but more than make up for it in originality.