It's a Blast
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.
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.
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