(l to R) Chantelle Han, Rebecca Northan, Jade Benoit and Sarah Koury
Kung Fu Panties REDUX
February 6 – March 9, 2013
Loose Moose Theatre
Derivative, repetitive, clichéd, sophomoric, predictable, bush-leagued and rambling. These are some of the words I would use to describe Rebecca Northan’s remount of her 2011 all-girl action movie genre hit, Kung Fu Panties, cast this time round with a group of emerging artists. However if you were to ask the audience around me their thoughts I’m sure they would have a different take. That is if they could stop their gut-busting, laugh-till-they-cried reaction long enough to tell you their opinion of the show.
It’s a difficult position for a theatre critic to be in. To find yourself with woefully little positive to say of a production when those around you are so obviously having a grand time. I could posit that this audience came into the show determined to have a good time and laugh out loud no matter what. I could use as evidence lines that had no intrinsic comedic value yet had people roaring hysterically. Lines like – “Get a haircut you hippie” or “A lot can happen in 11 minutes” or “You look like a Caucasian knock-off of Rico Suave”. Or I could cite the fact that all throughout the play, all an actor had to do was appear on stage to elicit uproarious laughter from the seats. But the truth is I can’t get inside other people’s head. I can only tell you what was in mine as I sat through a production that had me disturbingly wishing I was instead watching the 2000 film adaptation of Charlie’s Angels – a not very good movie but at least better than what I was seeing on the stage.
The gist of Kung Fu Panties is to introduce us to Darlington (Sarah Koury), Malta (Chantelle Han) and Goodbody (Jade Benoit), members of The Sisterhood, a knock off of the rough and sexy Charlie’s Angels characters introduced by the film franchise and ripped right out of hackney heaven. There’s the cold potty mouth one, the romantic moral one and the new kid who isn’t all that bright. Their job is to stalk and assassin evil doers, in particular a man by the name of Flores, a nefarious arms dealer and drug trafficker. The girls fight their way through Kung Fu battles, car chases, gun play, a staged orgy and a romance gone wrong to get their villain. And it’s all done with a tongue in check, spoofy and overly sexualized manner meant to be both funny in the doing and funny in the homage. The problem is that to my mind it accomplished neither. A lack of chemistry between the girls, a horrendous English accent a la Madonna once she moved to London, humour that consisted mostly of groin kneeing or men stripping down to teeny thongs and repetitive slow motion, ninja-aided fight scenes piled one tiresome moment upon another.
What the play lacked in writing and acting however was made up for somewhat by Northan’s direction which injected many well-conceived and smartly designed elements to the show. A laser beam security system is beautifully brought to life on the stage as the girls try to navigate their way through the maze, a final climatic car chase dramatized wholly on rolling office chairs is tightly delivered and expertly choreographed and the one pseudo sex scene with pumped in fog and a bed that rotates managed to stay just this side of silly enough to have amusing impact.
But those few expertly realized moments are by no means enough to save this production from feeling like one big schoolyard recess play. And I’m not sure I’ll ever get over my new-found contextual fondness for Cameron, Lucy and Drew. Kung Fu Panties had all the potential of a fun, spoofy, action packed night in the theatre, but like most items of lingerie, it was much better in principle than in practice.
For the girls – Despite the fact that each girl is a shallow stereotype, they do kick ass and triumph in the end. MAYBE SEE IT
For the guys – It seemed that the men were the ones laughing hardest at the ball-kneeing and male stripping. Not sure what that says about you guys. But hey, laughing is good I suppose. MAYBE SEE IT
For the occasional theatre goer – If you like this humour then it’s a laugh a minute even though it will feel a little long overall. MAYBE SEE IT
For the theater junkie – You’ve seen this all before, either on screen or in the theatre. Probably done far better. SKIP IT