Review: Otherworld Theatre Takes Audiences on a Sexy Knight-Worthy Quest With Garters: A Queer Romantasy Play

Otherworld Theatre's world premiere staging of Garters opens with four ensemble members (Chloe Basset, Bruce Holtman, Quinton Walker, and Kylie Carroll) welcoming the audience with a fourth-wall-breaking prologue. The four remain in character as they joyfully usher us into the old-world feel of Garters. Sir Yvain (played by Kira Nutter) has a gentle presence for their reputation as a fierce knight, proving that quiet determination can overcome almost anything. Hedy (played by Jenny Hoppes) is a lively and playful counterpart to Yvain's stoic persona, and she uses funny accents and double entendres to mask her true aptitude for social manipulation. Blake Marion Hood directs this production, written by Natalie Zutter.

Years before the events of Garters, Hedy and Ivain infiltrated a training camp and worked to become knights, hoping to add more names to the list of lady knights in their generation. However, when Hedy was discovered as a girl, the pair were separated for seven years. When Yvain embarks on a quest to help Prince Varic (played by Jerome Michael Jones), they're reunited at the brothel where Hedy now works. Tension ensues between the former friends as they debate the roles of damsel and hero, and Yvain expresses disrespect toward sex workers which Hedy aptly rebuffs. She instead advocates for freedom of choice, solid working conditions, and opportunities for advancement and personal growth, as she sees a future where sex workers are treated like those in any other profession.

Jenny Hoppes and Kira Nutter. Photo by Nadir Waxali.

We meet Prince Varic, who is charming, naive, and unready to assume full royal duties as king, even with the assistance of his aunt Lady Dagomar, played by Lauren Miller. As with so many stories of a dying king, an heir, and an overly invested family member, Lady Dagomar has a mysterious influence over the events of Garters. She represents the “woman behind the man” often seen in patriarchal structures like politics, marriage, and royal succession. 

We also hear the legend of Lady Clatilda, once the pinnacle of a successful female knight. However, 100 years later, history has not changed course in terms of gender-inclusive knighthood. As one character reminds us, “We have to stop talking about the world like it’s one big bedtime story.” Change requires concerted effort rather than wishful thinking, and these characters know they'll have to hustle for their happy endings. 

Though their alter egos could have become who they are, the characters in Garters find themselves living somewhere in between the roles available to them. Yvain reintroduces themself to Hedy as neither man nor woman and uses they/them pronouns, sharing, “I’m both and I’m neither: I’m myself.” Consequently, their old-timey quest involves modern questions of chest binding and choosing where they wish to be touched. The repeated visual symbol of the butterfly also represents a tried and true metaphor for transness and transcending who or what we once were. In contrast, Lady Dagomar is a butterfly collector who captures specimens in their prime, hoping to preserve their beauty by pinning them down. We see a constant reminder of this center stage: an image of a sword through a butterfly’s body. The script also juxtaposes traditionally masculine and feminine symbols: the "knights of the garter" have a garter tied around one arm while holding a shield in the other.

Set design is by Blake Hood and Tiffany Keane Schaefer, lighting design by Hood and Abby Schnell (also the stage manager), media design by Jake Mayer, and costume design by Parrish Davis-Sauls.

Jenny Hoppes and Kira Nutter. Photo by Nadir Waxali.

Garters will appeal to anyone craving a fairytale with a modern bite; it comes with magic mirrors, knights, royalty, stage combat, and enchanted gems, but the true magic is the relationship between Yvain and Hedy, as both grapple with their roles in a world that wasn’t built for them. Their chemistry—and angst—reads perfectly, with intimacy direction from Becca Schwartz and fight direction from Sam Campos. The narrative stakes of Garters feel incredibly high, and the story is at once relatable and escapist. Between the royal drama, secret plots, and clash of swords, audience members experience two characters learning to see each other as they truly are. And, as in our world, their freedom won't be won without a fight.

Garters: a Queer Romantasy Play was workshopped through the EMG Playwriting Workshop and debuted as a one-act at Otherworld Theatre's Paragon Festival. Its current full-length version is staged for the first time. In the production's program, the playwright acknowledges the theater company's artistic director and founder Tiffany Keane Schaefer, and Blake Marion Hood, the production's director, as contributors to realizing Garters' full form during this run.

Garters runs through July 7 at the Otherworld Theatre, 3914 N. Clark St. Tickets are $27 with limited pay-what-you-can tickets available. The production is recommended for 18 years and older. Get tickets at https://www.otherworldtheatre.org/.

For more information on this and other plays, see theatreinchicago.com.

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Row Light

Row Light (she/they) is a Chicago-based culture writer and editor. You can find their work at row-light.com.