Occasionally, it's really nice not to have to think too much, to just settle back and watch a couple of frenetically energetic guys working really hard to earn your good will -- and your dollars. Oh, and to make you laugh. The Big Bang, now at the Playwright Theatre, posits the following scenario: Composer Jed Feuer, played by Ted Keunz, and writer-lyricist Boyd Graham, played by Chris Bogert, are in the expensive penthouse apartment of a New York proctologist and his wife, pitching a huge, fabulous musical called The Big Bang to a group of possible backers -- that is, us. The show will cost $83.5 million, run twelve hours and feature a cast of hundreds of dancers, singers and people "who move well." We're offered a tray of crackers and cheese, and there's a mention of shrimp, but then the performers are off and running, acting out the show they propose.
Ted Keunz (from left) and Chris Bogert display sox
appeal in The Big Bang.
The Big Bang is just as clever as it needs to be -- sometimes very, sometimes not so much -- but never clever enough to make you stretch your brain. It's never tedious, either, as we're whizzed through the history of the world by a set of musical numbers. Clad only in their shorts, wearing signs over their butts that say "Your ad here," the actors play Adam and Eve, with the snake represented by a sock. They dash around the apartment, using everything and anything they can get their hands on as costuming and props -- furniture, kitchen implements, gewgaws, curtains -- and the results are ingenious and surprising. They roll a foot stool representing a huge, heavy stone into place for Pharaoh's pyramid, groaning that they're "Jews with the blues." An upside-down lampshade turns Bogert into Queen Nefertiti, the world's first diva. (Do you think the word diva will be retired anytime soon? I'm hoping). As Eva Braun, singing a Marlene Dietrich-style torch song about loving the wrong man, Keunz sports braids of garlic. A pair of umbrellas hooked around Bogert's waist and draped with gauze become the crinoline skirt of a Southern belle.
In one of the funniest numbers, the Virgin Mary and Mrs. Gandhi bitch about the travails of motherhood -- because who but a mother cleans up after the miracle of the loaves and fishes? And what an embarrassment to have a grown-up son still in diapers. There's also a hilarious song about the gluttony of King Henry VIII sung by two of his cooks and accompanied by wooden spoon and cooking-pot percussion. The two actors also croon a pseudo-soulful, wonderfully nonsensical ballad to each other as Napoleon Bonaparte and his Josephine: "Today is just yesterday's tomorrow." I particularly enjoyed Keunz's song as a lion preparing for his matinee at the Colosseum -- but that was doubtless because I was envisioning a couple of those gay-bashing, bring-on-the-Apocalypse Colorado Springs Christians as his prey.
The Big Bang is buoyant and witty, perfect fare if you're in the mood for a couple of drinks and a lot of laughs. Bogert has a fine singing voice (as well as gleaming dimples), but what really keeps the evening aloft is the actors' wild-eyed energy and their sweaty, hopeful desire to please.