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Action Movie: The Play

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ACTION MOVIE: THE PLAY, Defiant Theatre, at the Chopin Theatre. A few minor cuts aside, Joe Foust and Richard Ragsdale's oft-revived parody of blockbuster films is being restaged in a form that most resembles 1999's Action Movie: The Play--The Director's Cut. But the reflexive slant of action movies diminishes the comic effect of the story: a bunch of misfits band together to stop a diabolical madman from destroying the earth with a charmed paperweight. The production gets by instead on its dismantling of the genre and its virtuosic displays of stunts and fight choreography.

But pacing remains a problem: even after two revisions and a quasi sequel, Action Movie: The Play is too methodical given its sources. There's a decided lack of momentum during the hour of exposition it takes to introduce all the characters. And even the best-executed stunts--a chain saw battle on the roofs of two speeding cars and an homage to the ladder sequence in Jackie Chan's First Strike--can't hold a candle to the show's breathtakingly boisterous opening-credits sequence.

Ingratiating performances by some of the original cast members--especially Jennifer Gehr, gleefully profane as a police sergeant--justify the price of admission. Still, this is an oddly disjointed staging technically unsuited to the Chopin space.

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