Inside Shia LaBeouf's Drive-in Theater Production About a COVID-19 Testing Facility

Shia LaBeouf The Peanut Butter Falcon - Getty - H 2019
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Shia LaBeouf and his Slauson Rec. Theater Company seemed to have cracked the code for putting on a live theatrical production during a global pandemic by mounting a play about a COVID-19 testing site.

It’s called 5711 Avalon and the title is taken from the address where the production takes place, inside a gated parking structure in South Los Angeles. All of the performers are masked and outfitted in personal protective equipment, or PPE, as they navigate through a drive-in testing facility, either playing staffers on site or patients rolling through as they get tested for the novel coronavirus.

5711 Avalon kicks off with a message onscreen that details the storyline and its inspiration, taken in part from the work of Sean Penn and Ann Lee's CORE organization: “This play draws on interviews conducted by the theatre company with frontline workers, CORE volunteers, company members’ journal entries and published news reports from April through June 2020.” The rest of the performance unfolds in various spots across the parking lot with video monitors and projectors capturing and reflecting the action.

LaBeouf does not appear in the show but is involved in the intimate production that can host close to 30 cars per showing. His Slauson Rec Theater Company, founded along with Bobby Soto and Bojangles in 2018, bills itself as “an unconventional, experimental, devised theater” comprised of members that “write performance, not text.” What they seemed to have accomplished is a way to perform a show safely while also speaking to the current times.

On that note, the play features a scene starring a blonde character who seems to have been inspired by any of the viral “Karen” videos as of late. Though she is not named, the actress refuses to wear a mask as she attempts to secure a test from a Black woman, one of the site’s medical professionals. She cites a chronic pulmonary condition as reason for her refusal and a verbal disagreement ensues that includes the blonde character pleading, “I need to speak to the manager.”

On the unconventional note, the performance ends with a modern dance number featuring the nearly two dozen actors congregating in the center of the lot bathed in red light as audience members were invited to turn on their hazard lights. Kid Cudi caught an early showing of the play on Sunday night and tweeted that it’s “fucking [fire emojis],” before adding, “Salute to Shia and the whole cast and crew for doin’ such an incredible job!”

Slauson Rec’s Twitter account also posted a text message from producer Albert Berger sent to LaBeouf in which he praises the Slauson creation. “The play has really stayed with me,” he wrote. “Everywhere you looked, there was something compelling to see. The acting, dancing and mise en scene were flawless. It’s a great achievement.”

The play is scheduled to continue through Nov. 1 and tickets are available here.