It’s possible you do not like stage combat, even when it’s awesome. It’s possible you don’t like jokes. Other than those cases, I’m having a difficult time tempering my recommendation for “The Tournament,” which has only one more performance at the Capital Fringe Festival.
Live Action Theatre has been in training for “The Tournament” since the company’s birth in 2013. As in last year’s Fringe production “The Continuing Adventures of John Blade, Super Spy,” the whole thing feels like a bunch of hilarious fight choreographers got together and made each other laugh and go, “Cool.”
Playwright/company co-artistic director Kyle Encinas, along with fight choreographers Robb Hunter, Casey Kaleba, Jenny Male, Craig Lawrence, Chris Niebling (also co-artistic director) and Lewis Shaw, are spoof-pastiching fight movies now, from “Kickboxer” to “Fight Club.” In the tradition of the first Austin Powers film, the makers embrace a trope (such as the terrifying, nearly invulnerable antagonist warrior with just one weakness) long enough to stick a dagger in its ribs.
You don’t need to be super familiar with the movies being sent up, though. To get the jokes, you will probably have to have seen a movie produced in the past 40 years, one in which an underdog triumphs over adversity, or there’s a big competition, or a mysterious man is pulling all the strings for mysterious reasons.
Jake Guinn plays our hapless underdog, Brian, to nebbishy, sad-sack perfection; Kristen Pilgrim rocks as love interest/hipster martial artist with her own reasons to fight; Christian Sullivan is great as a couple different Guys Who Everything They Say Is Funny. The whole cast of 11 gets to fight and dance aggressively with a variety of weapons, many of which sail onstage at opportune moments and hit Brian.
This is the kind of show that probably wouldn’t exist without Fringe, with its built-in audience, advertising and cheaper-than-usual performance space. And although it’s a rare Fringe show that kids and parents both will like (it’s not even all that crass, except the scrotal violence), the perfect audience for “The Tournament” is probably people who would never go see a show in the Capital Fringe Festival because plays are lame. If any such types have read this far into this review, go get yourselves a button.
At 8:45 p.m. Saturday at the Sprenger Theatre at the Atlas Performing Arts Center, 1333 H St. NE. Call 866-811-4111 or visit capitalfringe.org . $17 plus the one-time purchase of a $7 button. 70 minutes.