In slow motion, a bruised and battered hero flicks a lit cigarette into a pool of gasoline, exploding the bad guys into oblivion while he flies away to safety holding onto a helicopter with one hand and saluting with the other.This clichéd Michael Bay inspired homage is exactly how Steve Ackerman envisioned his new production Action Sequence, running weekends June 14th through 24th at In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre.
“I’ve been thinking about doing this type of show for two years,” said Ackerman, director and co-writer of Action Sequence. “I was interested in making one really long action sequence that would last throughout the entire show. I wanted to stay away from narrative and go from one location, one form of vehicle to the next with little to no reason or backstory.”
Therein lies the direct connection to Bay, a director who has seemingly made a career out of avoiding subtlety and story continuity at all costs. “Yeah, pretty much,” Ackerman laughed. “I feel like Bay took the ethos of the 80’s action movie and exaggerated it so much that it kind of lost what made the inspiration behind his source material so special in the first place.”
What distinguishes Action Sequence is that it’s a puppet show. How can an action movie, the defining characteristic of which is long, complex set pieces, be achieved in such a rudimentary medium? “It plays off of how difficult achieving the action is,” said Ackerman. “I don’t think the actions on stage are quite as seamless as what you’d expect from an action movie, but there will be lots of things standing in for expected elements like quick cuts to the next scene.”
In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre is known for incorporating messages about social issues in its productions. “I know it’s a little bit of a departure from the shows we usually do at Heart of the Beast in terms of content,” said Ackerman. “I try to stay away from thinking too much about what the overall message might be, but I do think that it might speak to the oversaturation of violence in contemporary media.”
Overall, it’s not a stretch to suggest that Action Sequence is something of a guilty pleasure for Ackerman. “Yes, ultimately, I want it to be fun. I want it to be like a summer blockbuster,” Ackerman said. “Action Sequence lets you sit back, forget about everything that’s happening in the world, and just enjoy the ride for an hour.”
In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre will present Action Sequence at 8 PM on June 15, 16, 17, 22, 23, and 24, midnight on June 24, and 2 PM on June 18. Tickets are $15, $12 for students. Visit brownpapertickets.com for more information.
By John Benson