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ST. ELMO'S FIRE

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A few years back, an offshoot of L.A.'s notorious Theater A-Go-Go company came up with the outlandish notion of staging a production of that cloying 1980s Brat Pack movie St. Elmo's Fire. With an ironic eye to the dated quality of the movie, the production was enacted as pure camp—drag queens portraying most of the female roles and the bizarre homoerotic subtext of the post-collage Gen X buddies being played way up. It was a freakishly entertaining, over-the-top party-time spectacle. Sadly, director Bryan Chesters' uninspired and totally by-the-numbers "straight" staging of Schumacher and Kurlander's original movie script is a tepid brew by comparison. Chesters, in a production that has apparently the "blessing" of film director Joel Schumacher, simply enacts the film's shooting script, the actors offering vague imitations of the movie characters. The result is theatrical karaoke, the cast enacting the frequently saccharine script with all the reverence of Laurence Olivier performing Hamlet.

St. Elmo's Fire focuses on several college pals who have graduated and are now in the process of evolving from cheerful, free spirited kids into fearful, responsible adults. There's irresponsible proto-slacker Billy (Timothy Prindle), who can't keep a job and has latched onto adoring, straitlaced virgin Wendy (Danielle Taddei). Then, there's aspiring political advisor Alec (Darren Capozzi), who has switched from being an idealistic Democrat to being a pragmatic, cynical Republican. And there's sensitive, aspiring writer Kevin (Chesters), who has a seemingly hopeless crush on Alec's neglected girlfriend Leslie (Kate Steele).

The film's screenplay is awkwardly adapted to the stage, where the intimate immediacy of the theatre only points up the glaring inadequacies of the movie's stereotype characters and howlingly bad dialogue, which often reduces to clunky bon mots such as, "I don't know who to be anymore, okay?"

To his credit, Chesters executes the work with crisp pacing that energetically rattles along. Less effective is the acting, which is disappointingly uneven: Some performers deliver their turns with an amusing sardonic quality; but others are prone to soapy, bland line readings and hesitant, shuffling blocking. Ultimately, Chesters' production is unable to generate enough sparks to ignite a meager flame, let alone one St. Elmo might warm to.

"St. Elmo's Fire" presented by Penny Lane Centers in conjunction with Underdog Productions, at the Complex, 6476 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood. Thu.-Sat. 8 pm, Sun. 7 pm. Jan. 13-Feb. 13. $20. (818) 470-8067.

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