I must hand it to Six Elements Theatre, if you have any questions at all about what you’re going to see in their interactive evening they have pretty much everything outlined and articulated in their informative program: the teams, the players, the rules of gameplay, the expectations of combat, the weapons and their origins, and the history of the company and the six years of production. The attention to detail is super helpful and greatly appreciated.

Walking into the spacious downstairs of Christ Church Lutheran in Southern Minneapolis, it is quite the medley of a motley crew. There is unicorn hair, goths and hipsters, suburban dads with kids, discussions about rugby in the seats and those of “sailor moon” coming down the stairs, lots of braids and beards and a ton of excited energy! The life size board is intimidating and the sound system is pumping, and appropriately so, upbeat pre game music, (Black Sabbath Crazy Train and Europe’s The Final Countdown, to name a few choice pieces). The kinetic anticipation is visceral and you can feel it raising your adrenaline.

Speaking of “pieces”...it’s a whole nother thing when discussing chess. Okay, here’s the deal, I’m an athlete, an actor (who was luckily to have an entire semester on stage combat in grad school), AND I do know how chess works. The bottom line, it really doesn’t matter. These folks get your heart racing! The fights are one on one attacks based on actual chess moves. When one pices wants to occupy a square that they would “take” or remove in the board game, here they must fight to win and earn occupation of said square, very clever.  The first few were on the weaker side but as the game went on there was some amazing and nuanced movement! Mortuary sword and buckler, black wins the square. Rapier and dagger, white wins. Hand to hand combat (this was awesome, the white bishop got the black queen in an arm bar and she got out of it), black wins. Sword and shield, white wins. Quarterstaff, black wins. The enthusiasm is unadulterated and contagious. The dialogue, which seems somewhat scripted, was a little cheesy but it’s very clear the players and audience alike aren’t here for the quips but for the battle and EVERYone is having a good time.

Black won the first game, white took the second (two out of three of course there was a tie breaker), and I left before the last because although the fights are darn entertaining, the breaks in between are very long and it was going on three hours, I was tired and had had enough. Or maybe I was just too fond of both teams to see only one take home the proverbial trophy! Sure, let’s go with that.

Ultimately it was an entertaining night of skilled fighting and the noise and commitment by everyone involved lent itself to a throw back gladiator match, players had fans and were cheering for specific teams, there were refreshments and swag, it was a good time. Sadly, I was out of town and too late to get this review out before their final night this past Saturday the 1st, BUT know that this group does this every year and I’d recommend keeping up with their calendar to see whether they’re making any appearances at the Renaissance Festival or anything of the like. It is a quirky unusual night out and is just nice to sit back and watch some good ol’ combat...where nobody actually dies.