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Even the subtlest reader couldn't find more in Epic Proportions than director Jerry Zaks has found— half a dozen good jokes, and enough mild smile-provokers to keep you in your seat for 90 minutes without writhing. It ain't much, but Zaks has dressed it up prettily: bright cartoon sets by David Gallo, brightly goofy costumes by William Ivey Long, and a few likable comic performers. If you think that's worth Broadway prices, buy now.

Soup opera: Diedre O'Connell, John Seitz, and Paul Lazar in Mud
photo: Susan Johann
Soup opera: Diedre O'Connell, John Seitz, and Paul Lazar in Mud

Details

Mud; Drowning
By Maria Irene Fornes
Signature Theatre 555 West 42nd Street
967-1913

Epic Proportions
By Larry Coen and David Crane
Helen Hayes Theatre Broadway and 44th Street
239-6200

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The basic joke, if you're still interested, involves an interminable biblical epic taking an interminable time to film in the Arizona desert. The authors can't decide whether it's a satirist's joke on moviemaking or a metaphysician's joke in which the horrific things being filmed ac- tually happen to the cast. Having no plot, they vacillate lamely between the two. In keeping with our Republican era's reverence for money, this is the first American play about filmmaking to contain not one rude reference to producers, studios, or financial backers. In the cast, Alan Tudyk is mildly funny, Kristen Chenoweth is pleasant enough to make me wish people would stop overrating her, and Ruth Williamson, whose comedy in other hands has tended to be ragged and scattershot, delivers a crisp, neatly focused performance; I hope she keeps working with Zaks, preferably on plays that aren't distended leftover Sid Caesar sketches. Just think, though: If Caesar's mid-'50s movie spoofs had been 90 minutes long, television might have died in 1955, and this country might be civilized today.

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