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Theater Mon Apr 13 2015

Badfic Love's Satirical Romp Transcends Itself

Badfic Michael Courier.jpg

Photo by Michael Courier

Imagine a secret society that tasks itself with the mission to abolish terrible fan fiction from the internet, a group that embraces the sci-fi and fantasy fiction 'canons' with such rigidity that any variation on their beloved tales must be mocked out of existence, even while their own inside jokes and pitiful puns are riddled with the indecipherable, ludicrous mash-up of their geek culture. Then picture an unlikely Mary Sue sort of heroine who simply must write about the unspoken love between Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy because it makes her and her diehard fans happy. By this point, you can clearly see the window for comedy that has been opened. But until you see the show yourself, it is doubtful you could also imagine how the rich layers of theme and subtle ironies fold in so seamlessly with scenes that involve feuding superheroes being taught lessons about grammar. But just because you can't imagine it ahead of time, doesn't mean it didn't happen.

Strange Bedfellows Theatre's new production, Badfic Love, written by Adam Pasen and directed by Aaron Henrickson, makes it happen by pairing an award-winning story with a lively and capable cast.

Opening night began with a wizard rock pre-show by punk trio Diagon Alley who struck musical notes reminiscent of the Beastie Boys mingled with Killing Joke, but with lyrics centered firmly in the Hogwarts arena.

Badfic Love
begins with some stage combat and homo-erotic comic-book-worthy camp. The geek references are hip deep, complete with wordplay puns, and terminology so specific to the genre of badfic that the program comes with a handy 'Glossary For Newbies' to define some of the more obscure terms. It is there that Badfic (bad fan fiction) for example is distinguished from Crackfic-fanfiction that is intentionally bad.

Put the puns and camp of Badfic Love aside, and you are left with the tamer story of Kyle (played by Chris Fowler) coming to terms with his lack of direction and his own wobbling moral compass, while his love interest Michelle, played by Cristiana Barbatelli, grows as a person simply by freeing her own badly written characters from their artificial realms and moving on.

One nice stereotype-busting scene occurs as an unlikely love interest blooms between Kyle's affable law-studying roommate Jared (played by Jovan King) and Kyle's imperious ex-girlfriend, Cynthia (played by Katie Hunter). After discovering a mutual love of the video game Final Fantasy, they both succumb to a game. While parsing through their high school experiences as jock and geek, they debunk a few clichéd perspectives and their attraction deepens.

For Potter fans and sci-fi/fantasy fans, Badfic Love is complete immersion. Characters frequent the Middle Earth Café, and use wands and light sabers interchangeably. On opening night a few audience members were attired in Hogwarts regalia, and the sale of an accompanying comic book adaptation was offered during intermission in case you wished to relive the story at home.

But Badfic Love will appeal to a wider audience as well because its tantalizing comic irony is ultimately transcended by the underlying story. Is Badfic Love corny and campy fan fiction in its own right? Yes. Are the characters in Badfic Love producing even cornier and campier fan fiction? Yes. Are the main characters in Badfic Love echoing what is happening to the Hogwarts characters? Yes, and on one amusing occasion they do so literally. Yet somehow the audience comes to embrace the healing properties of storytelling, imagination and fiction as the story unravels, along with the relationships, leaving us all feeling stronger as Draco and Malfoy (played hilariously and sweetly by Jake Szczepaniak and Connor Konz) discover the true terror and lightness of being unfettered from the narrative. Pasen's work is ambitious, sometimes garrulous, but ultimately wins us over with its insights and humor.

Badfic Love will be running at the Den Theater, 1333 N. Milwaukee, Thursdays through Saturdays through May 2 at 7:30pm (arrive by 7pm to see the different pre-show bands featured each weekend). Tickets are $20 available at Strange Bedfellows Theatre.

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Architecture Tue Nov 03 2015

Paul Goldberger Describes the "Pragmatism and Poetry" of Frank Gehry's Architecture in His New Book

By Nancy Bishop

Architecture critic Paul Goldberger talks about Frank Gehry's life and work in a new book.
Read this feature »

Steve at the Movies Fri Jan 01 2016

Best Feature Films & Documentaries of 2015

By Steve Prokopy

Read this column »


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