“Fight Quest” is an Otherworld-ly, Excellent Adventure

Maybe it’s just me, but a good bit of stage combat does wonders for my appreciation of a show. I also happen to love a slight element of unpredictability – the need to ad lib within a story thanks to an unexpected twist or element. I furthermore enjoy fantasy, adventure, and the passionate work of Otherworld Theatre here in Chicago. Add in a witty Game Master and the occasional roll of a 4-sided die, and I’m sold.

Although I must say it is my LEAST favorite die.

Otherworld’s “Fight Quest” is an adventurous, funny, delightfully self-aware show where the audience helps choose the outcome of the story. The Game Master (Bennett Bottero, who is also the “Fight Quest” playwright) introduces the concept in pretty straightforward terms: he has created four ‘avatars’ and will choose an audience member to be the player for this game. The player then chooses an avatar (the Rogue, the Monk, the Ranger and her Wolf, or the Barbarian), and the GM narrates the story – tailoring each chose and twist in the road specifically for that chosen avatar. Along the way, there are mini-games, puzzles to solve, and gambles to make, all unfolded by the player’s choices on how to guide the avatar.

It is innovative, exciting, fun theatre, full of game/fantasy/pop culture references. The cast does a magnificent job of treading the fine line between ad-libbing to riff on whatever reference was made and keeping the intense integrity of a hero on a fantasy quest facing down their cruelest foes. Grace Gimpel‘s Rogue is smirky and saucy, quick with her daggers and unafraid to spin and leap from the Public House’s stage to the ground floor without even looking. The Ranger (Moira Begale, also the director of the piece) is stern and aloof as any elf should be – and wields a broadsword in harmony with her Wolf companion’s vicious flying kicks. The two of them have a few really cool assist moves that had the audience stomping and roaring for more. Kai Young as the Wolf is seriously one of the best parts of the show – committed, impressively athletic, and also the fight choreographer. The two avatars chosen the night I attended were the Monk (played to stoic yet charismatic perfection by Brendan Stallings) and the Barbarian (the impressive and astonishing Justin Verstraete).

Of the avatars, the Monk was the only one to this point who had not ‘debuted’ before an audience, so the player chosen from the audience eagerly selected the Monk to start the evening off. Even when the player’s choices caused hilarious script modifications, Stallings kept his composure as the Monk, and performed admirable feats of quarterstaff and acrobatics. His fight against the Barbarian is particularly well-choreographed and performed.


The debut of the Monk!

The Monk’s turn in the story (a game module Bottero’s GM calls “The Bandits of Hollow Hill”) was so speedy that at the end, the performers decided to do another round. A brief intermission later, a new player from the audience was chosen, and a new champion – the Barbarian.

Part of the introduction to the game is having the audience player decide on their avatar, then choose the avatar’s name and where they’re from, or what title they hold. When the new audience player selected the Barbarian, it was decided (perhaps a little too quickly for the player himself to realize the joke he was making) that this Barbarian would be known as Randall the Savage. Instantly and seamlessly, Verstraete launched into a full Macho Man impersonation which threw the audience into uproarious laughter that did not die down perhaps for the entirety of his run of the story. “Mmmm-mmm!”s and “Yeeeeah”s punctuated every narration the GM provided, and the physicality and gestures were as natural to Verstraete as what I imagined his ‘regular’ performance track to be like. It wasn’t only impressive – it was hilarious, and not a single person in the room (wrestling fans and non-fans alike) was immune to the comedic brilliance.

I guess you could say Verstraete rolled a natural 20 that night.


Randall “The Macho Man” Savage


Anyone who has ever played D&D or read a Choose Your Own Adventure book will understand the formula, and will enjoy this production to its fullest, but the entertainment is real for anyone who sees “Fight Quest.” Because it is different every time, I strongly encourage you to see it – and see it twice if you can. Each avatar is worth watching as the champion, and audience decisions are always a recipe for hilariousness. I praise Bottero’s genius scripting and theatrical model for a unique experience that will not easily be forgotten – and nor would I want to forget it. The lights and sound design do a good job transporting us to various locations in the story with no set pieces (the Public House Theatre is small enough that the fighters need all the space they can get for movement and safety). Perhaps most notably, Stefanie Sajib Johnsen’s costuming is exquisite. Each piece is beautifully made and each avatar is perfectly suited up for battle – the Ranger in elven greens, the Rogue in poisonous purple, the Monk in exotic orange, and the Barbarian in brutal brown with blue face paint. These are not home-cobbled cosplays, they are well-made and well-executed and do the rest of the work transforming the space into a real-life fight in a tabletop roleplaying game.

Otherworld productions are consistently smart, ambitious, and fun to attend. Do yourself a favor, and seek out “Fight Quest.”


Fight Quest will run Sundays April 24th – May 22nd @ 7:00pm at the Public House Theater (3914 N. Clark St. Chicago, IL 60613). Tickets are available online and at the door for $10.

Otherworld Theatre website





Cosplay Eye Spy: C2E2 2016 Edition

Round 1:

  • DC > Harley Quinn
    • Suicide Squad redesign
    • Batman: The Animated Series
    • Steampunk
    • Pin-up/rockabilly
    • Other
  • DC > Poison Ivy 
  • DC > Joker 
  • Marvel > Deadpool
    • As himself
    • As someone/something else
  • Nintendo > Ash/Pokemon Trainer
  • Disney > Frozen > Elsa/Anna
  • Star Wars > Han Solo
  • Star Wars > Princess Leia
  • Game of Thrones > Daenerys Targaryen

Round 2:

  • Ubisoft > Assassin’s Creed > Altair/Ezio/Evie/Jacob/etc.
  • Anime > Attack on Titan > anyone
  • Anime > Sailor Moon > any of the sailor scouts
  • Star Wars > full Mandalorian armor
  • Star Wars > full Stormtrooper armor
  • Marvel > Guardians of the Galaxy > Groot
  • Mad Max: Fury Road > Furiosa

Round 3:

  • Crossover > Star Wars x Disney
  • Tumblr > Marvel > Hawkeye Initiative
  • Tumblr > Tolkien > Party Dad Thranduil
  • Marvel > Jessica Jones
  • Marvel > Daredevil/Matt Murdoch
  • Mad Max: Fury Road > War Boys (with props and/or vehicles)
  • Game of Thrones > Jon Snow

Print it out and play along!

    What To Get Your Sith-nificant Other For Valentine’s Day 2016

    Because Valentine’s Day only happens once a year… and why not cash in on everyone’s new favorite angsty villain?


    In no particular order:


    This tiny squishy Kylo Ren ($10). For on-the-go adorableness.

    Screen Shot 2016-01-18 at 8.58.31 PM

    This slightly larger squishy Kylo Ren ($20). For dark, brooding cuddles.

    Screen Shot 2016-01-18 at 8.58.39 PM.png


    This lightsaber necklace and the matching set of earrings. For the chic Sith in your life.


    This luxurious tufted rug for a proper Dark Side comfort ($19).

    Screen Shot 2016-01-18 at 8.42.21 PM.png


    This supersoft space blankie ($25). Again….just for comfort.

    Screen Shot 2016-01-18 at 8.46.23 PM.png

    A LEGO set of Kylo Ren’s First Order command shuttle. Excellent for displaying on one’s desk at work or a collector’s shelf at home.

    Screen Shot 2016-01-18 at 8.43.00 PM.png

    DATE NIGHT BONUS: Help your Valentine build the thing… if you dare.


    A pair of chopsticks ($15).

    Screen Shot 2016-01-18 at 8.45.10 PM

    DATE NIGHT BONUS: Order your Valentine’s favorite Asian cuisine. In the delivery special requests, make sure the food is labeled “FOR KYLO REN.” When the food arrives, present it to your Valentine on fancy plateware, avert your eyes respectfully, and speak only in Imperial/First Order British Dialect.


    This hoodie ($105).

    Screen Shot 2016-01-18 at 8.50.44 PM.png


    This incredible hand-painted mug (Etsy, $8).

    Screen Shot 2016-01-18 at 8.51.34 PM.png


    This precious handmade Valentine’s Day card (Etsy, $4).


    Screen Shot 2016-01-18 at 8.55.03 PM


    And for a romantic Valentine’s Day breakfast feast with a heartfelt nod to your Valentine’s hero/grandpa… This toast-making miracle device.


    Make sure to ask your Valentine how dark they like the Dark Side of their toast…

    …or their waffles!

    “I find your lack of pancakes disturbing.” 


    BONUS! Things to NOT get your Dark Side Valentine:


    AT ANY RATE. I hope you resist the call of the Light Side this Valentine’s Day and celebrate in red and black with your special someone – just like Grandpa Vader (RIP) would want you to. XOXO





    Leia on the Playground: Scenes and Memories of Star Wars


    “Have you seen Star Wars?”

    The question is hazy in my mind now, but back then it came unbidden to my lips as a new friendship blossomed with a boy in my second grade class. He was a scrawny, rough and tumble kid with scraped knees and a really cool bike. I don’t remember why we had begun to talk more and play together at recess, but I remember the solemn commitment with which he nodded.

    “Let’s play Star Wars,” I said firmly, at some point, and by the time recess was done that day we had reenacted every line we could remember, the movie relived – starring him as Han Solo and me as Leia (or Luke if the scene needed it). There was no Han/Leia kissing, of course, but I did yell “INTO THE GARBAGE CHUTE, FLYBOY!” and toss him down a tube slide on the playground. We climbed on things, hid in the thin treeline at the edge of the school property, aimed invisible blasters at invisible Storm Troopers, and ran for our lives down corridors in our minds that never ended.


    illustration by my younger brother – circa 1995

    Continue reading

    Review: Professor Elemental’s APEQUEST is a timeywimey triumph!

    It’s a funny old world. One minute, you’re at Teslacon screaming because Lord Bobbins just announced that the world-famous Professor Elemental will be joining us next year for Teslacon 7 – and then the next minute you’re at home screaming because the Prof himself has agreed to let you review his newest album for your blog – and he’s said some awful kind things about your blog and accomplishments to boot.

    See? Funny.

    I was thrilled to find that Professor Elemental had released a new album – if I owned his previous albums The Indifference Engine and More Tea? on a physical disc, I would undoubtedly have destroyed the discs by now from overplaying them. (Is that still a thing? Do discs get messed up from overuse?) Even more thrilling to me was the title: Apequest. The Prof’s omnipresent but never vocal primate butler has gone missing and it’s up to the Professor to find him… what I didn’t realize is that this quest would also involve one of my favorite things in the entire universe: time travel. 

    Ohhhhhhhhhh yes, friends. Buckle up because this album is friggin’ awesome.


    photo courtesy of professorelemental.com

    From the get-go I was stoked to settle in and listen to Apequest – but honestly the storytelling and the time travel element made me even more ecstatic. The Professor would naturally need his Time Travel Trousers to find Geoffrey – but he can’t use them, as Geoffrey is the one who absconded with them accidentally! So out come the Prototype Trousers, the first version of the more successful Time Travel Trousers, and off the Professor goes to find his faithful friend.

    The album is one outstanding track after another, following the Professor through time as he searches for Geoffrey and discovers that there is more than just a misplaced monkey afoot. He has littered the lyrics with dazzling rhymes and references to other popular space and time icons and legends, and each track has exquisite sound editing and richly textured orchestrations that fill the imagination and the stage of the mind’s eye to follow the Professor through the various chapters of history (and the future). The Professor heads back to the age of dinosaurs, then forward to the medieval times, the Wild West, the future, even outside time itself for an incredibly funky “The Inn At The End Of Time” (which almost feels like a funky timespace edition of “Love Shack”). The unbelievably well chosen guest artists are additional icing on the cake – reaching “Weird Weird West” and suddenly hearing the extraordinary harmonies of Steam Powered Giraffe oozing through my headphones was like biting into a perfect fluffy cake to discover there’s an unrealistically perfect lemon curd filling hidden inside. And furhermore, Steam Powered Giraffe on this track brings to mind the ghostly Greek chorus of the Haunted Mansion at Disney, i.e. utterly delicious.

    Professor Elemental is not just an outstanding rhyme-wizard, but he’s also a marvelous storyteller and a clever, clever nerd. The musical easter eggs are plentiful and rewarding when you notice them – I could be wrong but the sound that signifies the Time Travel Trousers’ transportation sounded a bit like a squealing R2-D2 for a hot second. The future’s flying cabs sound like the Jetson’s car. There’s 8-bit chords in “End of Level Boss.” It’s a smirk-inducing ride of brilliant fun that I’d recommend to any fan of the Professor – and any fan of smart lyrics, good beats, and unusual subject matter.

    Pick up Apequest on Professor Elemental’s website and enjoy it for yourself – your ears will thank you!


    photo courtesy of professorelemental.com