Fight Night highlights just how little control ordinary Americans have over the democratic process | Theater Review | Chicago Reader

Fight Night highlights just how little control ordinary Americans have over the democratic process 

The Belgian troupe Ontroerend Goed interactive performance is perfectly timed.

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Yvon Poncelet

An emcee stands on a stage shaped exactly like a boxing ring sans ropes. A mike descends from above, as it does in every boxing movie you've ever seen. The emcee introduces you to five figures wrapped in hooded robes. And there you sit with a lavalier around your neck; at the end of the lavalier, a palm-size numerical keyboard.

You're handed the keyboard/lavalier arrangement when you show up for Fight Night, now in a brief run at Chicago Shakespeare Theater, so that you and every other audience member in the room (129 of them on the night I attended) can help score a series of bouts involving the five figures, who, when they take off their robes, turn out not to be boxers at all, but candidates for a nonexistent political office. They campaign in your direction. You eliminate them one by one.

Creepily, amusingly American despite the fact that it's the work of a touring Belgian troupe, Ontroerend Goed, Fight Night plays with all the disturbing ambiguities inherent in an ostensibly democratic process, especially one distorted by digital technology, constant polling, and fake demographics. We may be the ones with the keyboards in our hands, but we retain less and less control as the 90 minutes pass and the system spins further and further out of whack. By the time we reach 100 percent consensus on the winner, our choices have lost all legitimacy.   v

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