Fringe shows shouldn't duplicate what can be seen any weekend in small theater. "The Ring of Steel" certainly supplied something different Monday night at the Mark Taper Forum--and on the "Babbitt" set, at that.
It was an evening of sword fights.
It didn't get monotonous. In fact there was too much variety, as with a piano recital where absolutely everybody in the studio gets a chance to perform. The show needed a stronger point of view, a narrator and a smaller, better-matched cast. But the variety made a point.
"Swordplay" is a language. It offers not merely a choice of weapons (foils, pikes, broadswords, daggers) but a choice of moods (comical, tragical, whimsical, Byronic).
The comedy numbers seemed the most adroit Monday night. A quartet known as Forte did a 10-minute spoof-history of fencing in the movies. You don't send up Errol Flynn without knowing his moves, and this group (Gillian Bagwell, Stuart Chapin, Joe Nassi, Louis Roth) was on the button.