In his story within a story, Playwright Adam Pasen again focuses on the storytellers. A couple years ago, Pasen penned a tale of the meet up of two literary giants in his world premiere, Tea with Edie and Fitz. This time, Pasen’s homage to writers goes contemporary. His genre centers on online fanfiction.
The story within the story examines the relationship between Harry Potter and his arch nemesis, Draco Malfoy. The previously untold story has Harry and Draco living out a fantasy created by Michelle, a fanfiction writer. Harry and Draco’s future is uncertain because a group of self-appointed guardians of good writing have decided to stop Michelle. These elitist online critics end stories by silencing the author through cyber-bullying.
The setup in one sentence…
A flamer assigns an assassin to kill Mary Sue and destroy the badfic.
Cynthia wants Kyle to get Michelle, who includes herself as a hero in the Harry and Draco story, to stop writing bad fanfiction.
Pasen, not only pulls us into his surreal worlds of wizards and geeks, he gives us the tools to navigate the journey. Throughout the show, projections (Designer Paul Deziel) help the audience understand. Sometimes the words are the explanation of what is going on during a blackout. For example, “3 seconds of hot sex.” And sometimes they define slang like ‘crackfic,‘ ‘boarder‘ and ‘Jossed.’ (The program also has a page of glossary terms.) The projections support a newbie’s emersion into these subcultures. On a metaphysical level, the typing reinforces that the story and the play is a writer’s creation. And as a purely amusement shtick, the projections often zing the joke.
This show is comic. Connor Konz (Harry) and Jake Szczepaniak (Draco) impressively personify these well-known -and at least in Konz’s case- beloved characters. The unassuming Konz completely resembles the befuddled student wizard. As the story calls for, we get to see the softer side of Draco through Szczepaniak’s adorable vulnerability. The Harry-Draco story unfolding is unexpected and hilariously twisted. The innuendos, rooted in J.K. Rowling’s original manuscripts, are non-stop riotous. In this fanfiction, Pasen gives the fans what they want. We glimpse the secret life of Harry Potter and it’s a hoot! Within this magical realm, a nod out to David Flora who delivers perfection in his appearances as Snape and Voldemort. In dual roles, the spirited Katie Hunter (Hermione/Cynthia) effortlessly pulls off the spunky witch sidekick and the pushy cyber dictator.
Director Aaron Henrickson skillfully keeps us grounded in three different worlds: fantasy, virtual and real. Henrickson’s transitions are smooth as he takes us from quidditch match to dorm room. Although the talented ensemble keep us engaged in all the stories, it’s always a little disappointing when we leave Hogswart for the real world. And despite his muggle ordinariness, the amicable Chris Fowler (Kyle) does a fine job in keeping us interested in his relationships with Cristiana Barbatelli (girlfriend), Jovan King (roommate) and Hunter (cult leader). The wacky Harry and Draco story is balanced out by Fowler’s familiar dilemma. He is dating Barbatelli on the sly. And he knows his friends don’t like her.
Straddling both worlds, Barbatelli dresses for her personalities. Barbatelli’s character writes herself into her story as the superhero. For this online ego, Costume Designer Barbara Little puts Barbatelli in three different uniforms. As Barbatelli gets increasingly cocky, Little’s costumes get progressively more grandiose. Back down on earth, Little has Barbatelli in an almost mousy look in comparison. Barbatelli goes from over-the-top pompous to girl-next-door normal in a wardrobe change. And it’s just another way, Pasen shows the humanity behind the creative voice in his respectful tribute to ALL writers.
BADFIC LOVE captivates on multiple levels. You don’t have to be a Harry Potter aficionado to appreciate the ingenuity. But for those who are (like myself), you’ll get some of the more subtle humor. And to add another realm into BADFIC LOVE’s appeal, the play lives on in a comic book adaptation. Pasen, with art by Don Edwards, created a cool piece of BADFIC LOVE memorabilia. In addition Harry Potter-inspired rock bands provide preshow mood music. This is definitely an all inclusive experience. Since there is nothing bad in this fanfiction, the ‘bad‘ in BADFIC LOVE must stand for bad-ass!
Running Time: Two hours includes an intermission
At The Den Theatre, 1333 N. Milwaukee
Written by Adam Pasen
Directed by Aaron Henrickson
Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays at 7:30pm
EXTENDED Thru May 9th
Buy Tickets at www.strangebedfellowstheatre.com
For more reviews and information on Chicago theatre, visit Theatre in Chicago.