Review: A Story Told in Seven Fights (The Neo-Futurists)

| March 8, 2018

Story Told in Seven Fights cast, by Neo-Futurists Theatre, photo by Joe Mazza           


A Story Told in Seven Fights

Written by Trevor Dawkins
The Neo-Futurists, 5153 N. Ashland (map)
thru April 7  |  tix: $25  |  more info
Check for half-price tickets   


Intelligent and exciting world premiere


Arti Ishak and Stephanie Shum star in A STORY TOLD IN SEVEN FIGHTS from The Neo-Futurists

The Neo-Futurists presents
A Story Told in Seven Fights

Review by Lauren Whalen

The Neo-Futurists’ founder and creator of Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind, pulled the rights from the Chicago company back in 2016. Since then, the company has bounced back, presenting a weekly show of two-minute plays called The Infinite Wrench, but some anger over the founder still remains. This is evident in A Story Told in Seven Fights, which begins as a stage combat-heavy presentation of the Dadaist and Surrealist movements and ends with a quieter, more personal meditation on what happens when a leader leaves his followers in the dust, his followers wondering what the hell happened. A Story Told in Seven Fights is about 10-20 minutes too long (the reported running time was Kendra Miller and Trevor Dawkins   star in A STORY TOLD IN SEVEN FIGHTS from The Neo-Futurists70 minutes, then 80, before settling at its current 90), but the combat is superbly choreographed and exciting (thanks to fight director Gaby Labotka), and it’s one of the strongest Neo-Futurists productions I’ve seen in a while.

Neo-Futurist ensemble member Trevor Dawkins leads an eight-person cast in an exploration of two theatrical movements, during which it was perfectly acceptable to punch a person in the face. At the turn of the 20th century, an African-American boxer dominated the ring, radical theatermakers crashed ballet performances, and yes, one Dadaist decided to punch people in the face. True to Neo-Futurists style, A Story Told in Seven Fights is quirky and energetic, though this particular production is distinctive because of its historical context of the distant and very near past. Though Neo-Futurist founder Greg Allen, who ceased performing Too Much Light in 2016, is never mentioned, his presence is certainly noted, especially in Dawkins’ case.

As I mentioned above, the main fault of Seven Fights is that it needs to be tightened up. While the stage combat segments are the production’s strongest element, some of the more dialogue-heavy sequences tend to drag interminably. The ensemble is so physically adept and interesting, that the energy tends to drain when they’re not doing some sort of activity while talking. Like any Neo-Futurists show, passion is never the problem, but it’s a question of transferring that passion to the audience. Seven Fights has the actors playing themselves and historical figures, which is an improvement over last summer’s The Food Show, an indulgent and navel-gazing 70 minutes about how poached eggs makes an individual actor feel. Seven Fights’ script, penned by Dawkins, is refreshing in its look at an unconventional time in theater history.

Stephanie Shum stars in A STORY TOLD IN SEVEN FIGHTS by Trevor Dawkins, The Neo-FuturistsStory Told in Seven Fights cast, Neo-Futurists Theatre, photo by Joe Mazza

The diverse cast is active and enthusiastic, performing astounding physical feats while constantly spitting dialogue. Rasell Holt is a standout as a groundbreaking boxer who later disappointed his target audience. Local favorite Arti Ishak continues to draw in audiences with her considerable charisma, and Stephanie Shum’s trademark intensity never wavers. Dawkins is a strong performer as well, though I wish the script had focused a bit less on his own struggles with Allen. The Neo-Futurists have an incredibly distinctive style: either you like it or you don’t. Either way, there is no other company in Chicago like them. If you like theater history and stage combat delivered by a terrific cast, A Story Told in Seven Fights is not to be missed.

Rating: ★★★

A Story Told in Seven Fights continues through April 7th at The Neo-Futurarium, 5153 N. Ashland (map), with performances Thursdays-Saturdays at 7:30pm.  Tickets are $25 (pay-what-you-can on Thursdays), and are available by phone (773-878-4557) or online through their website (check for availability of half-price tickets). More information at time: 90 minutes, no intermission)

Story Told in Seven Fights cast, by Neo-Futurists Theatre, photo by Joe Mazza

Photos by Joe Mazza 




Trevor Dawkins, Jen Ellison, Rasell Holt, Arti Ishak, TJ Medel, Kendra Miller, Stephanie Shum, Jeff Trainor

behind the scenes

Tony Santiago (director), Olivia Wallace (stage manager), Gaby Labotka (fight director), Alon Stotter (lighting design), Eleanor Kahn (scenic design), Steve Labedz (sound design), Kate Hardiman (production manager), Joe Mazza (photos)


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Category: 2018 Reviews, Lauren Emily Whalen, Neo-Futurarium, Neo-Futurists, New Work, World Premier

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