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If It Was Easy . . .
Theatre Review by Seth Christenfeld
John Jellison is, quite possibly, the epitome of a consummate actor. Regardless of how terrible the show around him may be, his performances always seem to rise above it. Last summer, he played two scientists (one good, one evil) in the awful off-Broadway musical imPerfect Chemistry and was all that was any good about it. Now, heís the lead in the truly dreadful If It Was Easy..., giving another accomplished performance while surrounded by accomplished idiocy.

Jellison plays Steve Gallop, a down-on-his-luck producer in search of a show to produce. At the suggestion of theatre columnist Randi Lester (Bonnie Comley), he decides to produce a musical based on the life of Frank Sinatra. The mob, in the form of Joey Fingers (William Marshall Miller), gets involved, and cliches and implausibilities (and a Swedish lumberjack) abound.

The authors of this "play" are Stewart F. Lane and Ward Morehouse III. Lane is a producer, Morehouse a former theatre columnist. Forget the ridiculous story and the plot holes large enough to drive a Buick through, the scariest thought you have while watching If It Was Easy... is, "It took two people to write ?!"

Would-be jokes are telegraphed obviously ages in advance. The second that Gallop comments about his closet door having a tendency to get stuck, itís evident that someone will get trapped inside. Not long after his new secretary (Vicki Van Tassel) announces that sheís from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, thereís a couple of lousy gags about the Amish. And the title, which is grammatically incorrect for no good reason (it comes from Gallopís commenting, about producing Broadway shows, that "if it was easy, anyone would do it;" Lester immediately corrects him (it should be "if it were easy"), and thatís the end of that.

Jellison, as mentioned, comes off as a likable guy trying desperately to patch the holes in a sinking boat; unfortunately, this is no dinghy Ė this is the Titanic. Miller and Van Tassel at least come off as attempting (and failing) to overcome their material. Then thereís Comley. She demonstrates a complete lack of talent, speaking every line (the funny, the sad, the wistful, the ridiculous) with the exact same intonation.

Lane also directed, unfortunately; his skill in that area is about as equal to his talent with a pen, which is to say nonexistent. Michael Ananiaís single set (Gallopís office) is passable, the highlight being several comedic fake window cards hanging on the wall (among others, Gallop seems to have produced a play entitled Yellow Gunmarine). Steven Epsteinís costumes and Phil Monatís lighting leave no impression.

Perhaps the strangest thing was noticing just how surprisingly full the audience was, and then noticing how almost nobody left during intermission. The response at the end simply wasnít; everyone must have stayed to see just how much worse things could get after the break. The answer is quite a bit. If It Was Easy... starts below ground level and digs, digs, digs. Maybe Lane and Morehouse thought that, if they went far enough down, theyíd strike oil. They havenít.

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If It Was Easy . . .
Douglas Fairbanks Theatre, 432 West 42nd Street
Tickets online: Tele-charge