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How to Defend Yourself
How to Defend Yourself

How to Defend Yourself
Victory Gardens Theater - Biograph
Thru - Feb 23, 2020

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Victory Gardens Theater - Biograph

  • Highly Recommended
  • Recommended
  • Somewhat Recommended
  • Not Recommended

Chicago Tribune- Highly Recommended

"...One of the dominant themes is the complexity of female desire and the inability of institutions to deal with the very real presence of lust on college campuses, in all its forms. Add in alcohol and, well, you have read the news. To really deal with the tricky question of how organic desire bumps up against a kind of learned self-objectification means that Padilla has to be willing to voice opposition to the standard progressive line that dominates non-profit theater — and this play does, especially in the character of Kara, played by Netta Walker with truly spectacular force and veracity. Very few young playwrights can do this so well; as we all know in our two Americas, one side’s realistic depiction reads as cruel stereotyping to the other."
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Chris Jones

Chicago Sun Times- Highly Recommended

"...Most of the high-profile discussions of #MeToo focus on litigating the harrowing details of the crime between perpetrator and victim. Few spend time with community members left to sift through the wreckage after law enforcement and medical professionals have done their parts. This quiet terrain is the subject matter of Victory Gardens Theater’s current production of “How To Defend Yourself.”"
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Sheri Flanders

Chicago Reader- Highly Recommended

"...What Padilla's play—directed with pinpoint precision and plenty of startling wit by Marti Lyons—asks us to consider is how defending our lives can so often clash with living our lives. As we teach young women "how to avoid being raped," do we spend as much time teaching young men (even the "good" ones, like Andy and Eggo) how to avoid staying silent in the face of rape culture? At the very time that young people should be exploring their sexual identities, we remind them that their joy in their powers of attraction can't always save them from a world where conquest remains a dominant driver in human interactions."
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Kerry Reid

Let's Play at ChicagoNow- Recommended

"...Director Marti Lyons and Movement Director Steph Paul blend staging, music, and movement, using quick punches and disarming techniques to bring a complicated piece together. By utilizing a highly stylized kickboxing sequence or showing Eggo sneaks into the gym to have an uninhibited private moment of dance, HTDY blitz the imagination with the realism, shock, and truth."
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Rick and Brenda McCain

NewCity Chicago- Highly Recommended

"...Victory Gardens' "How to Defend Yourself" is a play for 2020. Audiences are hungry for work that speaks to the current climate without just quoting from the headlines, that lets us escape into the characters' world without neglecting our own. In this piece about a peer-led self-defense group, started after a violent sexual assault occurs on a college campus, playwright Liliana Padilla takes on the dual roles of educator and storyteller, skillfully avoiding the trap of a "how to" play where the audience might feel like they're auditing a class instead of engaging in a story."
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Erin Shea Brady

Chicago Theatre Review- Highly Recommended

"...This new production of Victory Gardens’ Co-World Premiere with Actors Theatre of Louisville gives Chicago theatergoers the opportunity to enjoy Liliana Padilla’s excellent, high octane, award-winning comic drama. It’s a powerful play about how far we’ve come (and have yet to go), as the Me Too Movement continues to change attitudes toward unwanted sexual attitudes. Skillfully directed by Marti Lyons in Yu Shibagaki’s authentic-looking gym setting, this production will long be remembered for the way shameful feelings and ideas about sex and violence, long suppressed, have been played out upon the stage."
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Colin Douglas

Chicagoland Theater Reviews- Recommended

"...In its current condition, "How to Defend Yourself" hasn't decided between whether it wants to be a cry of outrage against sexual violence in our society or a series of separate little dramas about the turbulent sex lives of its young characters. I left the theater convinced that the play contains the seeds of an important work on an important subject. But even in its current imperfect condition it can be recommended for its staging and for its vivid shards strong dramatic content scattered throughout the script."
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Dan Zeff

Third Coast Review- Somewhat Recommended

"...The acting and directing in How to Defend Yourself are certainly competent. The play itself is the problem. There’s really no plot and not much happens in How to Defend Yourself. There’s a sweet and inexplicable ending and many loose ends. Diana’s obsession with guns. Mojdeh’s decision to wear a slinky dress that Brandi says shows “her clavicles AND cleavage” for a first date and then lying about what happens. Some bisexuality that’s never followed up on. No backstory on Nikki’s shyness and why she suddenly breaks out of it. The playwright gets props for addressing an important subject but the play needs some dramatic structure and a little character development."
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Nancy Bishop

Chicago On Stage- Recommended

"...This bisexuality, though, is not explored anywhere, nor does it seem to be all that significant to the plot or to the character. The same can be said about Diana's gun obsession and all of the side conversations about wanting to pledge the sorority. What is made clear is that three of these people have reasons to partially blame themselves for the attack on Susanna, and the fact that none of them could reasonably have predicted what would happen does not mitigate their emotions. What also is clear is that, though the rape creates a cloud that hangs over them, it doesn't actually alter the way they handle the world. Mojdeh, for example, still puts on a slinky dress for a first date, and Brandi comments positively about how it shows off "clavicles and cleavage." And Mojdeh also refuses to share her location with Diana, even when she expresses concern."
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Karen Topham

PicksInSix- Highly Recommended

"...In the end, we are left with, and challenged by, the enormous responsibility to aspire, as Mahallati's character offers, to become "the best version" of ourselves. That plan includes sharpening our instincts, watching out for each other-from an early age and even when it might not be warranted-and developing skill sets that allow for a balance of power in every relationship along the way. "Practice makes perfect," Brandi advises. "Excuses make mistakes." So, when best efforts fail, accept the reality that when people show us who they are, believe them, and be prepared to react instinctively-physically and emotionally-to preserve the essence of our own identity, defend ourselves and survive."
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Ed Tracy

Picture This Post- Highly Recommended

"...Liliana Padilla's play is about many things. This is a story about consent, self-defense, and strength. The piece is also about a desire to be seen - and the struggle to find one's own voice along that journey. Skillfully directed by Marti Lyons, the production is fast-paced and smooth - even through the transitions. This writer urges you to lean in and keep your mind open, because the story that unfolds over the course of the action-packed 95 minutes is important, but in no way easy to swallow."
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Lauren Katz

City Pleasures- Recommended

"...The low boiling excitement filling the air opening night for Victory Garden's How to Defend Yourself let you know there was something singular about this play. The story about a handful of young college women taking a self-defense class began making its exceptionalism apparent right out of the gate."
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Mitchell Oldham

Rescripted- Highly Recommended

"...As we see these women move their bodies, in defense, in dance, and in a stunning and surreal whirlwind of a final sequence, we are reminded how vulnerable we are when standing still. The unspoken responsibility women have to protect ourselves and to protect each other is real, and it is exhausting. By allowing for the expression of that sadness and fear, Padilla gives us something else, too: hope."
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Hannah Antman