Every time I think I've seen it all at the Fringe, a show like We Don't Play Fight
comes along to further expand my definition of what theater can be. Conquer Pro Wrestling, which previously presented its unique hybrid arts/sports production at the Garden Theatre and Orlando Shakes, has polished their presentation into an enjoyable hour of soap-opera dramatics and bone-crushing stunts.
The script, written by professional wrestler Jason Static, recycles just about every sports cliché possible, from the blind promoter desperately seeking a comeback bout to the scrappy amateur looking for their big break. And because wrestling is one of our culture's last bastions of offensive ethnic stereotypes, there's a loudmouthed redneck as the antagonist and an alcoholic Russian narrator serving as the sloppy "segue guy."
For wrestlers, the cast aren't bad actors, but the show improves greatly at the half-hour mark when the repetitive training montages and lame pop culture one-liners are laid aside and the combatants start laying into each other inside the stage's full-sided wrestling ring. Fight director Jason Skinner's three staged bouts — featuring a freakshow of evil clowns, masked luchadors, and even a dancing Mardi Gras jester — are brutal ballets of slapstick athleticism, packed with high-flying acrobatics.
The show has a DIY aesthetic that's a throwback to the earlier days of regional wrestling, before everything became a WWE video game. It's not always clear from the tone if it's intended to be a sendup of wrestling tropes or a straight-faced celebration of them, and the play's pacing would be improved a thousandfold if they'd simply tighten each wrestler's interminable introduction. Nonetheless, CPW will have you cheering the faces and booing the heels as they soar from the top turnbuckle, even if you've never been a fan of the squared circle before.
We Don't Play Fight
Saturday, May 20, 12:45 PM
Tuesday, May 23, 7:15 PM
Friday, May 26, 11:59 PM
Sunday, May 28, 4:30 PM