Action Theatre II: "Pinned" and "Diamondback Crypt" | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

Action Theatre II: "Pinned" and "Diamondback Crypt" 

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Action Theatre II: "Pinned" and "Diamondback Crypt," R&D Choreography's Fight Shop Stage Combat Studio, at Lifeline Theatre. Straightforward stunt fighting mostly requires physical agility while stage combat involves not only athleticism but acting. Richard Gilbert and David Gregory, founders of the Fight Shop school of "illusory violence," made the surprising discovery last year that there was an audience for their student exhibitions, and thus Action Theatre was born.

This second installment in the series is anchored by "Diamondback Crypt," a spoof of low-budget horror movies involving a frontier town attacked by vampires and a slayer lifted from Sam Shepard's Angel City. The gunplay, swordplay, fisticuffs, and blood F/X are easily up to R&D Choreography's high standard, as is the acting. But the script--heavy on passion, light on plot--is unfortunately typical of ensemble-generated fight scenarios. More intellectually satisfying is John Meissner's "Pinned," in which three pro wrestlers and their coldhearted manager (played by the brawny Mary Anne Bowman) debate their discipline's artistic merits. Finally a pep talk drawn from Shakespeare's Henry V restores morale.

The evening's highlight, however, is an entr'acte "commercial" for the show's supposed sponsor, the Stars Our Destination bookstore: going blade-to-blade with broadswords are Gregory as a book-signing author and Gilbert as an airheaded sci-fi fan. In this 90-minute program of forgivably flawed fun, it's the teachers who show us how things oughta be done.

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