If Epic Proportions, opening tonight at the Helen Hayes Theatre, had been a 12 minute skit on the old Carol Burnett Show, it would have become a minor legend in the annals of television comedy.
Unfortunately, padded and stretched to 75 minutes by authors Larry Coen and David Crane, and directed with a blatant disregard for the pacing and exquisite timing such material demands by the usually trustworthy Jerry Zaks, it has become nothing more than a tedious and embarrassingly amateurish vehicle in which to display the hit-or-miss talents of its principle performers.
If you missed Kristin Chenoweth's Tony winning turn in last season's You're A Good Man, Charley Brown, have no fear. She has incorporated all the coy mannerisms and attitude of her Sally Brown into Louise Goldman, the "Assistant in charge of Atmosphere Personnel." Hers is, to give Miss Chenoweth proper credit, a charming and superficially funny performance, but predictable and ultimately disappointing from an actress so obviously capable of much, much more.
Alan Tudyk, as the Movie Star wannabe, and Jeremy Davidson, as his brother, who happens to be in the right place at the right time with a practical knowledge of marching bands, struggle visibly with the material they have been given to work with. Their sporadically successful scenes occur when they appear to abandon the characters they play and rely instead on a personal sense of longing and bewilderment (Tudyk) and naive but urgent sexuality (Davidson).
The most satisfying and completely realized performances of the evening are given by Ruth Williamson, playing everything from a streetwise Queen of the Nile to an Edith Head inspired costume designer named Cochette. The always entertaining but under used Richard B. Shull appears all too briefly as the reclusive D. W. DeWitt.
Happily, David Gallo's scenery, enhanced by Paul Gallo's lighting, and William Ivey Long's costumes manage to amuse and hold your attention when the play and performances don't. At least you get that for your $65.
Epic Proportions, a play by Larry Coen and David Crane. Directed by Jerry Zaks. Starring Kristin Chenoweth, Jeremy Davidson, and Alan Tudyk. Also starring Tom Beckett, Ross Lehman, Richard B. Shull, Ruth Williamson, and Richard Ziman.
Scenery by David Gallo. Costumes by William Ivey Long. Lighting by Paul Gallo. Sound by Aural Fixation. Fight direction by Rick Sordelet.
Theatre: Helen Hayes Theatre 240 West 44th Street New York, NY 10036 (between Broadway & 8th Avenue)
Running Time: 75 minutes with no intermission
Schedule: Tuesday through Saturday at 8 PM, Wednesday and Saturday at 2 PM, Sunday at 3 PM. Added performance Friday, November 26, at 3 PM. No performance Sunday, October 3, and Thursday November 25.
Audience: May be appropriate for children 4 and older. Children under 4 are not permitted in the theatre.
Ticket price: $65 and $45, Wednesday matinee $60 & $40
Tickets in person: Box Office Hours Monday 10 AM to 6 PM, Tuesday through Saturday 10 AM to 8 PM, Sunday NOON to 5 PM
Tickets online: http://www.telecharge.com/
Tickets by Mail Order: Epic Proportions, Helen Hayes Theatre, 240 West 44th Street, New York, NY 10036
Tickets by phone: Tele-charge (212) 239-6200, or outside the NY metro area(800) 545-2559, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Tickets by E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.