Friday, December 18, 2009

Fight Fest: Last Life

The world has ended. Sounds like reason enough for a fight. Though the cause of the apocalypse remains murky, there seem to be a lot of people holding grudges anyway in Last Life, the co-creation of director and Fight Fest curator Timothy Haskell in collaboration with playwright Eric Sanders, now running as part of the Brick Theater’s celebration of the art of theatrical fight choreography.

Somewhere in what was once vaguely suburban America, six individuals will fight to the death. A father blames a former fitness guru for the death of his daughter. He in turn blames the nearby power plant for the destruction of the world as we know it. SkinFace just wants to eat people. None of this really makes any sense, but hey, it’s game on.

Last boasts some of strongest, most convincing fight sequences of the festival. Choreographed by Rod Kinter, resident fight director of the New York City Opera and the Pearl Theatre Company, they have a gritty realism distinct from the more outrageous cartoon mayhem of other Fight Fest shows.

Kinter and Haskell also had the advantage of a cast well familiar with the demands of martial arts. As the questionable protagonist Vadir, Taimak Guarriello, the star of the Berry Gordy produced cult hit The Last Dragon, brings fan credibility and stage fighting experience to the production. Amongst Vadir’s tormentors, experienced stage martial artists and dancers Soomi Kim and Jo-Anne Lee offer their considerable skills as the not-so loving sisters, Urir and Fenrir, respectively. Kim also notably conceived and starred in Lee/Gendary, the adventurous NY Innovative Theater Award winner for best production, inspired by the life and films of Bruce Lee.

While Last certainly has its eccentric elements, as when Haskell frequently steps onto the set Rod Serling-like to apply liberal amounts of stage blood, the production does not have the same joyously zany spirit displayed by other Fight Fest shows. In fact, it is quite dark and pessimistic in its vision of humanity.

Fight Fest is all about fighting, which is indeed quite impressive in Last. However, those who want laughter with their combat will find Ninja Cherry Orchard far more to their satisfaction. Last concludes its Fight Fest run tomorrow (12/19). While the festival proper ends this Sunday (12/20), Ninja will continue with post-fest performances in January.