Illustrious Bloodspill, Curious Theatre Branch, at Live Bait Theater. Who says theater is too slow and cerebral for fans of action films? Bryn Magnus's satirical homage to Hollywood violence begins with a chase--with all chases, in fact: the lone fugitive pursued by a mob, the speeding car smashing through the glass sheet inevitably being carried across the road, the western-movie chase on horseback. The performers in this "pantomime" sprint forward in double time and backward in slow mo, ricochet off walls and freeze in searchlight beams, vault over the heads of charging adversaries and hopscotch over rows of corpses to embrace their fallen comrades, accompanied by a steady stream of bass-and-percussion-heavy Morricone-Mancini riffs. And this is just the first ten minutes.
There's no actual blood spilled during Illustrious Bloodspill (though we can smell the sweat early in the hour-long show), no props and no dialogue, just the music of Family Problem, a four-piece band articulate enough to recite Hamlet. By isolating physical conflict from its dramatic context, Magnus hopes to expose the near-ritualistic artificiality of film violence. Some of his efforts work better than others--in particular, a catalog of facial expressions denoting hate, fear, and agony performed by an otherwise immobile lineup and a one-against-hundreds battle in which the hero has only to scowl to repel an attacker. And there's no denying the energy and agility of the nine cast members, who maintain their aerobic pace with the casual grace of Olympic gymnasts. Sort of adds a whole new dimension to the term "martial art." --Mary Shen Barnidge