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Action Theatre

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Action Theatre, WNEP Theater. Playwright David Gene Gregory's attempt to translate the unbridled energy and cartoonish violence of comic books into two action-oriented one-acts is clever enough, and the cast clings so valiantly to his heroic archetypes that the evening almost works. But "Action Theatre" is proof positive of the limitations of novelty for novelty's sake, showing that gratuitous stage combat, no matter how stylish and captivating, is always a terrific bore.

Irony is entirely absent in the opening one-act, The Jesuit Files: The Butcher of Firenze, a medieval potboiler that pits the forces of Christianity and paganism against each other in an epic battle ultimately decided by simple fisticuffs. IX-47, a cyberpunk romp, fares a bit better, though the virtual reality-as-addiction opening sequence borrows wholesale from David Cronenberg's eXistenZ, and strains from The Matrix sound track guide the action throughout.

The evening's gaffes--misplayed sound cues, actors unintentionally mooning the audience through almost transparent tights--can be forgiven; the real problem here isn't so much presentation as conception. Without much of a narrative backbone, "Action Theatre" leans too heavily on the stunts supplied by Gregory's company, R&D Fight Choreography, suggesting that less action and more theater is in order for the next installment in this series.

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