Capsule Reviews

Dennis Brown and Deanna Jent suss out local theater

Bells Are Ringing Reviewed in this issue.

Driving Miss Daisy Reviewed in this issue.

Epic Proportions This lunatic spoof of epic sandal movies (Ben-Hur, Spartacus, Land of the Pharoahs, etc.) was intended for a small off-Broadway venue. Instead, the comedy by Larry Coen and David Crane (co-creator of Friends) ended up on Broadway, where it promptly closed. But material that might seem thin in a large Broadway house makes for a highly satisfying community-theater offering. Until the very end, when the nonsense begins to wane, the show delivers nonstop laughs. The script has parallels to Stones in His Pockets, which also deals with life on a film set. But that's a real play; this is more of an extended sketch. As directed by John Austermann, the cast of sketch artists is adept and facile. Colleen Backer as the assistant in charge of thousands of extras and Andy Zaruba as one of those put-upon extras are especially zestful. Performed by the Theatre Guild of Webster Groves through March 15 at 517 Theatre Lane, Webster Groves. Tickets are $12 ($10 for students and seniors). Call 314-962-0876. (Dennis Brown)

Levee James A love story turns tragic: Hard-working farmer Wesley romances the down-and-out lady's maid Lily, but their fun-loving neighbor Fitzhugh accidentally turns the tides against them. A.C. Smith, Monica Parks and Gary E. Vincent create believable characters and the set, lighting and costume work is exemplary. But none of it is enough to disguise Sherry Shepard-Massat's poor script. The subject matter is a sad but true slice of American life -- it needs a better play than this to do it justice. Presented by the Saint Louis Black Repertory Company through May 15 at the Grandel Theatre, 3610 Grandel Square. Tickets are $25-$37.50 ($10 rush seats for students available ten minutes before showtime). Call 314-534-3810. (Deanna Jent)

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