Review: May the Fourth Be With You in Must-See 'Trade Federation’ at Otherworld Theatre

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Average: 5 (2 votes)

CHICAGO – Theatrical satires of the Star Wars Universe are like the number of TV series the universe has wrought … too many to figure out if anything is worthwhile. But “Trade Federation” (subtitled “Or Let’s Explore Globalization Through the Star Wars Prequels”), presented by Otherworld Theatre in Wrigleyville Chicago, gets it right on. By inculcating the dreary prequel trilogy (1999-2005) with geopolitics, it meshes the love of Star Wars with a smart new generation of artists who use it for inspiration and evolution. It has a short run through May 13th, click TRADE FED for tickets and dates. Comedy/Tragedy Rating: 4.5/5.0
Play Rating: 4.5/5.0

The setting is within the prequel universe, with familiar characters like Queen Amildala (Gabby Seed), young Obi-Wan Kenobi (Hunter Johnson), Qui-Gon Jinn (Calvin Chervinko) and even Jar Jar Banks (Christian Torres) populating the stage, but with a twist. Interrupting their revelry is a separate reality pitch of their story, with a young writer named Andy (Trey Plutnicki) providing a new themed Star Wars idea to George Lucas (Liam Ryan). As the two realities come together, there is much more to this re-imagining than just light sabers and Stormtroopers.

Trade Federation
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It takes awhile for the play to get going, necessarily as it turns out, but the first views of the Queen and the pitch from Andy to George has a noticeable stiffness. But once the themes of globalization and geopolitics are set in place, the play takes off like the Millennium Falcon through hyperdrive. The layers reveal more and more comedy, the types of laughs derived from knowing and winking satire. The action, between the laughs, is also cool. It’s amazing how much our tech has caught up with light saber re-creations. The sounds and the look of these weapons are perfect for stage dueling (the fight choreography is sublimely rendered by Sam Campos), and a sly bit of audience participation brings it to a logical and hilarious conclusion.

The play was written by Andy Boyd, who named the pitch character portrayed by Trey Plutnicki (who looks like J.J. Abrams) after himself, and Trey’s ardent intensity was no doubt aided by having the actual playwright to consult. Liam Ryan’s George Lucas is a fun and killer breach of the Lucas persona, and ramps up incredibly with Ryan’s soliloquy at the end of Act One … thereafter becoming a riotous demonic presence. The dual of Obi-Wan and Qui-Jon, so fricking serious in the prequels, are like an intergalactic comedy team as portrayed by Hunter Johnson and Calvin Chervinko.

A Star Wars-Familiar Scene in ‘Trade Federation’
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There is an amazing second act song, delivered by the whole cast, that creates a New Hope, and I’m not just using critic phraseology. It is an incitement, a call to arms if you will, by the twenty and thirtysomething generation that’s not going to take it anymore … it’s rousing, intuitive and in the now. Plus it makes perfect sense as blended into the Star Wars mythos, which makes “Trade Federation” the reckoning for farce, and a must-see event for Star Wars buffs in this week and beyond. May the Fourth be with you.

CLICK HERE for a complete schedule of Otherworld’s Theatre MAY THE FOURTH WEEKEND celebration, including a special presentation of TRADE FEDERATION!

Otherworld Theatre Presents “Trade Federation: Or Let’s Explore Globalization Through the Star Wars Prequels” at Otherworld Theatre, 3914 North Clark Street in Wrigleyville Chicago, at various days and times through May 13th, 2023. For general theatre information, click OTHERWORLD. Featuring Trey Plutnicki, Liam Ryan, Gabby Seed, Hunter Johnson, Calvin Chervinko, Christian Torres, Jacque Bischoff, Fae Davis, Mason King, Jerome Jones and Riley Toland. Written by Andy Boyd. Directed by Blake Hood. senior staff writer Patrick McDonald

Editor and Film Critic/Writer

© 2023 Patrick McDonald,

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