Bare Breasted Women Sword Fighting, in which, um, bare-breasted women fight with swords, is actually the final act of a five-act anti-burlesque put together by dog & pony dc. It is an extraordinarily sharp and subtle bit of political satire dressed in swaddling clothes, and incidentally also a demonstration of the formidable skills of the gifted fight choreographer Lorraine Ressegger, who constructs the evening’s entertainment.
Another title for this show (albeit one with less marketing pizzazz) would be We Know What You Pigs Really Want, So Sit Right Down Here and Get It. It is a show conducted entirely by women, and designed to nakedly address, in good humor and without judgment, men’s animal instincts to aggress and have sex.
We know what we’re in for with the first Act, “the Amazing Rubber Woman”, in which Becky Peters plays a woman who gets whacked around the stage by her husband, but always gets up smiling and insisting that she’s all right. We get the point, all right, but it is softened by the fact that Peters is tall and athletic and her “husband”, played by Maggie Ulmer, is a diminutive woman, adorable in a suit and grease-paint moustache. Except for audience members who actually beat their wives, this Act passes without bad feelings, and we are left to admire the way Ressenger moves her actors around the stage.
The next few Acts pass in much the same way. We are treated to a wrestling match – a trifle overlong – between The Warrior Princess and The Damsel in Distress (Kate Langsdorf and Brianna Letourmeau). The Warrior Princess is a powerful and aggressive woman; the Damsel in Distress is…well, you can guess what she is. The two pound at each other (the Damsel’s primary weapons are cunning and special pleading) until a winner is declared, based on social convention. Thereafter, The Most Terrifying Exotics, The Amazons (Katie Molinaro and Katie Migsch) appear on stage and whomp on each other with broadswords. Like the final-act sword fighters, these Amazons are innocent of clothing from the waist up, and every graceful moment they have on stage is a tribute both to their fight choreographer and their Designer.
I particularly enjoyed the comic stylings of The Virgin, the Mother & the Whore (Wendy Mogales, Sara Waisamen, and Amanda Barber), who come stitched together in a single costume. Their very presence, of course, pokes fun at the impossible and self-contradictory demands that men make on women; but they also celebrated the fact that in matters of the heart, women are equally irrational. (Sample joke: What’s the difference between a wife and a girlfriend? About 45 pounds. What’s the difference between a husband and a boyfriend? About 45 minutes.) It is one of those rare routines where not a single joke misfires.
The climactic Act is a sort of strip swordfight, in which the duelists (Becca Bernard and Rachel Grossman) remove an article of clothing after each touch until they are each bare breasted women sword fighting. I am of the party which believes that it is exceedingly pleasant to view the human body. So shoot me.
Charity Pomeroy serves as mistress of ceremonies for this whole operation, and she imbues it with just the right touch of knowing acceptance. Her comfortable leer never moves out of place, and she makes us feel that while we – men and women both – may be fools, we are also human.