Ticket Numbers

Corrections or additions?

This review by Simon Saltzman was published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on

October 27, 1999. All rights reserved.

New York Review: `Epic Proportions’

At the Helen Hayes Theater, a mixture of the utterly

incomprehensible, the totally inane, and the thoroughly inexplicable

is being offered in the form of "Epic Proportions." How incomprehensible

that seven producers were convinced they could make something commercial

— indeed, worthwhile — out of this slender comedy that is

nothing more than a collection of sight gags, hoary jokes, and absurd

tomfoolery about the making of a biblical epic in the 1930s. At a

top price of $65, audiences get a lot less than they bargained for.

What is inexplicable is the sheer waste of talent, including that

of the director Jerry Zaks, that has been assigned to bring some vitality

to this vapid spoof of the Cecil B. DeMille genre of film-making.

He does it. But was it worth it? Not in my estimation.

The show stars Kristin Chenoweth, the delightful, diminutive performer

with the nasal voice who won a Tony and a Drama Desk award last season

for her role as Sally in "You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown."

Chenoweth doesn’t need to hold her nose to sound that way, but you

may want to hold your nose when asked about this show. Along with

the effervescent Chenoweth, who tries with only fleeting success to

overcompensate for her underdeveloped role, the cast of eight formidable

comedians has been left stranded on the Arizona desert, the comedy’s

locale. Here they have to cope with the comedy’s primary plight: that

it has no plot to speak of, no point to make, and no purpose in being.

More screw-loose than screwball, "Epic Proportions" would

like to give the illusion of being a fast and funny farce, but instead

relies on the most pathetic and puerile shtick as it labors from one

tiresome and redundant scene to the next. The only illusion truly

created is that of a tacky, amateurishly conceived and executed one

hour and ten minute rip-off on a takeoff.

Chenoweth plays Louise, the ditsy but determined "Director of

Atmospheric Personnel," in charge of the thousands of extras.

Among her few good lines, spoken to the audience, as if to her cast

of extras: "It may take me a little while to get to know all your

names, but you can always come to me. I’m in the little blue tent

next to the Sphinx of Antioch, and my flap is always open." Among

the supernumeraries are two local yokels, the Bennet brothers, who

are both in love with Louise.

Alan Tudyk plays Benny Bennet, a rather timid aspiring actor who finds

himself positioned among the more upbraided and abused extras, particularly

while filming the 10 plagues of Egypt. Meanwhile Jeremy Davidson plays

the hunkier Phil, who becomes the film’s technical director when he

proves how well he can maneuver the crowds, a talent he picked up

from his days in the high school marching band. Suddenly a force,

Phil makes Louise the film’s ingenue and gives his brother a bit part.

But it isn’t long before Louise, who spends a lot of time chained

between two pillars, and Benny, who gets the treacherous role of slave

to the Queen of the Nile, fall in love. This, while self-absorbed

Phil turns despotic and desperate as he tries to keep the overworked

extras from revolting.

In this mirthless mix of mayhem and madness, Ruth Williamson gives

her all to the campy proceedings. For her, this means lots of eye-rolling,

mugging, and a rash of manic maneuvers designed to keep her fellow

Romans, Egyptians, and assorted biblical types played by Tom Beckett,

Ross Lehman, and Richard Ziman from completely falling on their faces.

Humorously designed for sex and sand (and a quick getaway), there

is nothing wrong with William Ivey Long’s costumes or with the deliberately

grandly scaled, but flimsy looking, settings by David Gallo. Everything

about the show appears more passe than the any telecasts we might

see of the old "Show of Shows" with Sid Caesar and Imogene

Coca, and those of Carol Burnett and gang. Frankly, many of those

classic episodes are infinitely better. They certainly offer more

sting and savvy than what has been thrust upon us in this travesty

by Larry Coen and David Crane. Coen is associate director of Boston’s

City Stage Co. where productions are renowned for their audience participation.

Perhaps Coen should begin to ask audience members to participate by

writing a decent plot for "Epic Proportions." Crane co-created

the HBO series "Dream On." And that’s what I say. H

— Simon Saltzman

Epic Proportions, Helen Hayes Theater, 240 West 44, New

York. $45 to $65. Call Tele-Charge at 800-432-7250 or 212-239-6200.

Top Of Page
Ticket Numbers

Unless otherwise noted, all Broadway reservations can be made

through Tele-Charge at 800-432-7250 or 212-239-6200. For Ticketmaster

listings call 800-755-4000 or 212-307-4100. For current information

on Broadway and Off-Broadway shows, music, and dance call NYC/On Stage

at 212-768-1818, a 24-hour performing arts hotline operated by the

Theater Development Fund. The TKTS same-day, half-price ticket booth

at Times Square (Broadway & 47th) is open daily, 3 p.m. to 8 p.m.

for evening performances; 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. for Wednesday and Saturday

matinees; and noon to closing for Sunday matinees. The lower Manhattan

booth, on the Mezzanine at 2 World Trade Center, is open Monday through

Friday, 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.; Saturday 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.; closed

Sunday. Cash or travelers’ checks only. Visit TKTS at: www.tdf.org.

A Broadway ticket line at 212-302-4111 gives information on Broadway,

selected Off-Broadway, and touring shows in other cities; calls can

be transferred to a ticket agent. Sponsored by Continental Airlines

and the New York Times.

Previous Story Next Story

Corrections or additions?

This page is published by PrincetonInfo.com

— the web site for U.S. 1 Newspaper in Princeton, New Jersey.

Facebook Comments