An ambitious high-water mark for the playhouse's zany sensibility, the original Action Movie: The Play proved giddily theatrical while lampooning the plots and conventions of lame adventure movies. Follow-up flicks frequently try to be bigger and louder than their predecessors, but Episode One, while breezily entertaining, operates on a slightly smaller scale compared to the first Action Movie.
The initial "film" was set in the present day (after the inevitable Vietnam War prologue), so Action Movie 2 takes place in 1977. Playwright Daniel May -- who in both shows plays arch villain John Kreegar -- gleefully riffs on the bell-bottomed kitsch of the Me Decade, especially through '70s sitcoms and blaxploitation films, with a mention of Dolemite providing one of the funniest punchlines.
After a letter-perfect imitation of Star Wars' opening credits, we meet SuperFu Jones (Nick Few), a tough cop with a sky-high afro. He sees his stakeout interrupted by sinister Arabs with a rocket launcher, pursuing a dying scientist with a mysterious eight-track tape. The tape alludes to the scheme of villainous Richard Garner (Scott Warren), who flounces around with a tiara and an English accent. Garner, head of the Georgia Shakespeare Festival in real life, was a passing reference in the first, and here it's like an inside joke exposed to radiation and grown to monstrous proportions. Warren even performs an evil song-and-dance number with nasty gusto, with May modestly giving Kreegar more of a supporting role.
Garner's minions include Kreegar and Lectra Cordian (Stacy Melich). Standing against the evil-doers is martial arts master Spitake, a remarkable Yoda-like puppet voiced and operated by Lucky Yates. Spitake unites Jones with Action Movie hero Stone Hardgod (Damon Boggess) and his sidekick Doughboy (Jason Armit in a preposterous Boy Wonder costume). A Terminator-style plot wrinkle complicates matters when computer geek Alex Smarty (Chris Blair) and a lethal android called the Defenestrator (Christian Danley) arrive from the future.
Full of deliberately over-the-top performances and willing to go in any cinematic direction in pursuit of a laugh, Action Movie 2, directed by Sean Daniels, isn't quite as outlandish as the first play. Lizz Dorsey's set suggests the rusted-out warehouses of innumerable action film locales, but it lacks the cartoony cityscapes and gizmos of the first. There's plenty of impressive hand-to-hand combat, but fewer fight scenes with props (here, no ladders or oscillating fans are used as weapons). The play includes a nifty speedboat prop, but the play's wild boat chase is disappointingly short, given its careful build-up.
Nevertheless, the play's rotating set permits a clever Matrix gag during one battle. If the first play's car chase was worth the price of admission, the comparable moment here finds Hardgod and Electra making eye contact and instantly going into a disco-dance, making moves that are both ridiculous and challenging (kudos to Zoetic Dance Ensemble for its comic choreography). Throughout, the cast strikes hilarious Charlie's Angels-style judo-chop poses, and Alison Hasting's Villainette makes a strong impression despite her paucity of lines.
Subbing for George Faughnan's Hardgod seems a daunting task, like when David Soul played the Bogart role on the Casablanca prequel TV series. Yet Boggess holds his own, and where Faughnan channeled a lockjawed Charlton Heston, Boggess provides a vein-popping intensity like Adam West on crack. He's nicely matched by Few, who gives the right kind of conviction to soul-brother lines like, "It's time for some white shit to hit the black fan!"
Action Movie 2 ends by setting up plot points resolved by the first play, and its attention to continuity is almost too good: You're left expecting one more song or fight scene. (And it's not like the first Action Movie is available for rent or frequently shown on USA Network.) You could say that Action Movie 2 is to the first what Austin Powers 2: The Spy Who Shagged Me was to the original spy spoof. But that overlooks the exhilaration of seeing humorous but intense fights and action scenes in live theater. Seeing a car chase on a stage is never boring.
Action Movie 2: Episode One plays through July 28 at Dad's Garage Theatre Company, 280 Elizabeth St., with performances at 8 p.m. Thurs.-Sat., 5 p.m. Sun. $12-$15. Call 404-523-3141 or visit www.dadsgarage.com
Little harsh, in'it?
Oh that's right...I DID say enjoy yourself.
Go to hell Kombo!
When will you be accepting applicants for the 2014 competition?
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