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Posted at 2:33 PM ET, 07/17/2009

'Bare Breasted Women' (Really)

By Nelson Pressley
Fringe Festival

To answer the obvious questions about "Bare Breasted Women Sword Fighting," a) indeed they are, and b) yes, they do. Which is why no one under 18 is admitted to this bawdy vaudeville at Source.

Not that toplessness is all there is to the act; after all, a savvy group of women aren't just going to do that, are they? What the performers of Dog & Pony DC have created is both a burlesque and an anti-burlesque: they'll show some skin, but this ain't yer daddy's strip club. They're going to play with conventions and make you think about it.

That attitude leads to some of the most sophisticated comedy I've seen so far on the Fringe, especially when an emcee dressed like Marlene Dietrich (men's tux) and dripping with Mae West innuendo saucily warms up the crowd. The acts that follow are a weird, canny blend of degrading and empowering, with the first -- "The Amazing Rubber Woman," who bounces back with a chirp and a smile each time her man slugs her -- making it impossible to view anything else as a mere playful display.

There's a rasslin' match between a Warrior Princess and a Damsel in Distress, a pair of half-nude Amazons glowering and wielding swords, and a string of classic dirty jokes told by a three-headed figure embodying the stereotypical virgin-mother-whore view of womanhood. The entire evening is awfully skillful: the comic timing is polished, and the cast banters winningly with the crowd throughout the evening. The women generally keep the irony dialed pretty high, and the control is impressive as they play these overdrawn types to the hilt, egging the audience on in a peculiar high-spirited conspiracy to have women flirting, fighting and exposed.

-- Nelson Pressley

By Nelson Pressley  | July 17, 2009; 2:33 PM ET
Categories:  Theater  
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