Would you like to be master of the universe? Or maybe just director of a play? If so, the interactive play Fight Quest is a good place to start. It is a stellar example of many things geeky, namely stage combat, Dungeons & Dragons-like role playing and Choose Your Own Adventure-style action wrapped in a play, which means that one lucky audience member gets to call a lot of the shots, and the Game Master/narrator (AKA Dungeon Master sometimes known as Bennett Bottero) gets to roll the die to add the randomness factor of whether your shots will succeed or fail. Wearing a bedazzled black jacket and chain maille-esque scarf and a t-shirt that says “If the GM is smiling, Panic” he cuts a formidable figure.
Otherworld Theatre Company has specialized in science fiction and fantasy theater since 2012, but clearly they have dabbled in cosplay and stage combat training for years. They have created four scripts to accommodate the audience member’s selection of a champion, and the cast rolls along with the punches, managing to throw their own along the way, sometimes in the form of actual brawls and sometimes with sly word play and inside jokes. The plots really do have that adolescent flair for drama and simplicity—that black and white mix of good versus evil that is as satisfying as when mom lets you microwave your own pizza puffs for your D&D brethren. The stage combat scenes in Fight Quest are exciting and very tangible, being within a spittle’s throw of the front row, and the costumes and weapons are hilarious fetishizations of D&D accoutrements.
Much of the cast of Fight Quest happens to also be the creators of the production, with Moira Begale doubling as a kick-ass ranger and the director of the show. Kai Young plays her sidekick and very limber lone wolf companion and he also choreographed the combat. Narrator Bennett Bottero artfully guides the hero quest and the interplay between audience and performers and is the playwright. Other iconic characters include the monk (played with over-the-top earnest poise by Brendan Stallings), the barbarian (Mark Penzien, a comedic force and stand in actor for Justin Verstrate who bravely memorized four scripts in a jiffy),and the rogue (perfectly sinister Grace Gimpel).
For those who aren’t seasoned Role Playing Game players, the show won’t seem strange or alien, given the prevalence of video games in pop culture and any previous exposure to Greek myths, Renaissance fairs, “Game of Thrones,” Star Wars or Joseph Campbell. The only thing Fight Quest could use to make their adventures more satisfying to the crowd is a bit more interaction between the GM and audience (to make the kitsch and drama last) and perhaps a second round of action (the show only lasted 40 minutes). When I mentioned this to my Dungeons and Dragons-playing son, a boy who has never known a Choose Your Own Adventure novel, he protested—saying that the plot had already been revealed, so variations on it would be pointless. But I was young when Choose Your Own Adventure books were popular and in spite of the clunkiness of the device (like how the books often resorted to the rare 2nd person narrative), they had their charms. I assured him that simply knowing that another version of a story exists out there is enough to make a reader go back and make completely different choices many times to understand all of the outcomes. Human curiosity supports multiple universes for the sake of adventure.
But given the price of a ticket ($10) perhaps the curious would enjoy a return visit to see the quest unfold with new exploits! Fight Quest will play on Wednesday evenings at 8pm June 8-July 27 at CSz Theater Chicago.