Divine Comedy

Some of this is funny, but Freed's shakiness with exposition keeps shoving untenable questions at you: Why would an artist schlepp a critic from a prestigious magazine upstate to meet her wacko family? Why does a nut who obsesses on big government and corporate interference blow up a Quaker meetinghouse? Kept in constant but uncogent motion by Howard Shalwitz's staging, Freedomland suffers from the dramaturgic equivalent of a slipped disc, with a new stabbing pain in its coherence every few minutes. Still, it has good points: In addition to Freed's fresh sounds, there's a magical set by Loy Arcenas, suitably giddy costumes by Candace Donnelly, plus a largely likable cast, headed by Veanne Cox, forceful and touchingly vulnerable as the artist-daughter. Heather Goldenhersh, Robin Strasser, Carrie Preston, and Jeffrey Donovan do well with the predictable eccentricities they're assigned, and Jeff Whitty does even better with the thoroughly untrackable role of the critic.

Becky Anne Baker, Juan Carlos Hernandez, Alan Tudyk, Kathryn Meisle in The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told: Man the maker-of canapés.
Joan Marcus
Becky Anne Baker, Juan Carlos Hernandez, Alan Tudyk, Kathryn Meisle in The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told: Man the maker-of canapés.

Details

The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told
By Paul Rudnick
New York Theatre Workshop
79 East 4th Street
460-5475

Freedomland
By Amy Freed
Playwrights Horizons
416 West 42nd Street
279-4200

Spread Eagle
By Jim Luigs
WPA Theatre
519 West 23rd Street
206-0523

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The talk is crisper in Jim Luigs's Spread Eagle, a work of perplexingly mixed motives. Based on the murder some years ago, in the Dominican Republic, of the beloved comic actor George Rose, it comes shadowed by a nasty aura of exploitation, which Luigs then mercifully but inexplicably eschews. His hero is as far from Rose as is humanly imaginable. The first half is British backstage comedy, clipped and funny, in which an overweening London superstar goes to Mexico for a rest, and finds himself purchasing a villa, along with the favors of its houseboy. In the second, even less probable half, he becomes infatuated with the artistic potential of the houseboy's younger cousin, and Luigs turns the play into what is surely the most arcane lecture to date on capitalism's abuse of the Third World. Under Constance Grappo's smooth direction, Brian Murray carves up the lead role with meaty gusto; he gets good help from Patricia Kilgarriff as his best female backstage buddy, and from Matthew Saldivar and Joe Quintero as houseboy and his rival. But Spread Eagle still belongs on the increasing list of events so dislocated from any purpose that they're starting to make the theater look like a Lost & Found department.

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