UNCW theater wows with production of 'Star Wars'-evoking 'Fight Girl Battle World'

Far into the future, in a galaxy far, far away …

“Fight Girl Battle World,” the 2008 play by Qui Nguyen, is the latest thought-provoking show from the University of North Carolina Wilmington's theater department. And fun it is, too, this raucous exploration of space-time and what it means to feel connected and human. The play runs through Sunday at the Mainstage Theatre in the Cultural Arts Building on campus.

Nguyen, who's best-known for his "Dungeons & Dragons"-inspired play "She Kills Monsters," engages the audience with pop-culture references while expanding on themes from the Book of Genesis and George Lucas’ take on the hero’s journey in "Star Wars." But wait, there’s more!

“Fight Girl,” by design, throws open the theatrical tool shed, allowing director and UNCW faculty member Elizabeth Wellman, her creative team and actors to work with puppets, shadow puppetry and stage combat as well. And the play’s story? It’s a good one.

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Humans are nearly extinct, having been hunted down and massacred by a galactic empire. E-V (played by an intense and athletic Elizabeth Montgomery), a woman gladiator surviving from fight to fight on planet II Nova 7 (aka Battle World), is all alone, or so she believes.

Enter General Dan’h (the always solid Khori Talley) in a glam uniform that could have been designed for Earth, Wind & Fire. The general is on a quest to make amends for his bloody deeds by finding E-V and uniting her with the last known human male, a one-man rebellion named Andon-Ra (Zach Harris in the Han Solo archetype).

But before humankind can have its fresh start, the general and his pilot J’an Jah (read as pragmatic yet passionate by Kezia Dunham) must defeat the nefarious President Ya-Wi (Trip Cameron) and his minions – the fabulous Commander G’bril (Oliwia Fudala) and confidently cruel Mikah Monoch (Sarah Stultz).

The ragtag band of allies against the galactic empire is given a boost by LC-4 (Tanner Batts in full gunmetal C-3PO splendor), a helpful and often comedic android who is reassembled into a snake-like entity after dismemberment in the final battle. Spoiler alert here, but somehow, LC-4 rolls an apple toward E-V and Adon-Ra to complete the allegory as the play ends.

Notable performances also include those of Cole Warren as E-V’s unscrupulous and manipulative fight manager, the two-headed lizard Zimlek; Lilly Ferguson as the Zookeeper; and lead puppeteer Alessandra Mantovani.

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“Fight Girl” is Wellman’s directorial debut at UNCW, though she's no theater rookie. She clearly gets and respects Nguyen's aesthetic as well the play’s themes, and coaxes committed performances from her large cast. One can imagine Wellman saying to her team something like, "Let’s try this and see if it works," and having a blast.

The look of the show is lo-fi sci-fi, presenting as a live-action comic book with enough polish to wow us. The production team, including set and lights by Jude Corbett and Randall Enlow and costumes by Mark Sorensen, beam the audience to multiple locations and the distinctive personalities of each character, evoking both laughter and awe.

There are adult themes around sexual reproduction – not a show for kids, despite the love of all things "Star Wars" on display, and let’s not forget the violence of intergalactic warfare.

WANT TO GO?

What: “Fight Girl Battle World" by Qui Nguyen, presented by UNCW Department of Theatre

When: 8 p.m. November 17-19 and 2 p.m. Nov. 20

Where: Mainstage Theatre in the Cultural Arts Building, UNCW campus

Info: Tickets are $14.02, $11.21 for seniors and $5.61 for students.

Details: 910-962-3500 or UNCWarts.universitytickets.com

This article originally appeared on Wilmington StarNews: UNCW theater presents Qui Nguyen's play Fight Girl Battle World