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Sizing Things Up 

Lake City Playhouse hits a deliberately lighter note with Epic Proportions.

click to enlarge Dawn Hunter and Alex Eddy in Epic Proportions - JEFF FERGUSON
  • Jeff Ferguson
  • Dawn Hunter and Alex Eddy in Epic Proportions

For a farce to be funny, it takes more than just a knockout script. It takes comedic timing. It takes laser-precision delivery. It takes a fluid and electrifying dynamic among both cast and crew.

The current Lake City Playhouse production of Larry Coen and David Crane’s Epic Proportions could be said to possess all of these elements, though not always consistently and simultaneously. The play is a change from the theater’s last piece, a somewhat controversial staging of Rent. With a much lighter story, Epic Proportions reaches some hilarious high points when the small cast is in top form and perfect sync, and there are moments when events rush past in a frenzy of noise and bustle.

Like that paragon of farce, Noises Off, a play about the making of a play, this is a play about the making of a movie.

The theatrical cast here plays the cinematic cast and crew of Exeunt Omnes, a Biblical epic being filmed in the deserts of Arizona and directed by the enigmatic D.W. Dewitt. This droll conflation of D.W. Griffith and Cecil B. DeMille, not to mention the play’s knowing title, is a fair approximation of the rest of the gags, most of which revolve around plagues, pyramid-building and wandering Israelites.

Things open with the prim and skittish Louise (Dawn Hunter) addressing us, the audience, as the film’s extras. It isn’t a complete violation of the fourth wall, since “our” responses are provided by a sound system. Every so often those canned replies and shouts missed a beat as opening-night kinks were worked out.

A scene change, and then struggling actor Benny (Brandon Montang) enters, joined shortly thereafter by his brother, Phil (Alex Eddy, returning to the Lake City stage after his role in Rent). Benny is sure the film will be his big break, even if he is only an extra. Phil’s pleas for him to return home fall on deaf ears, and before long he, too, winds up as one of the thousands of extras.

As the requisite twist would have it, Phil finds himself moving from success to success, whereas Benny is subjected to one humiliation after another. It gets even more lopsided when Louise falls for Phil instead of his love-struck brother. All of this rockets toward resolution and rebalance in the final scenes.

Hunter is outstanding as Louise; the best testament to her talent is that her scenes of intentionally bad acting are gloriously funny. Her sole misstep would be her screams, which are delivered with a gusto that’s more ear-piercing than side-splitting. Perhaps caught up in the exuberance, Montang had a tendency to sprint through his lines in the first half, but that didn’t stop him from being a sympathetic and engaging lead.

As Benny’s foil, Eddy is a bit limp and uncertain in his role, and this had the most negative impact on the central trio. His hesitancy is at odds with either of the two characters Phil ought to be: self-assured to the point of brazen arrogance, or woefully and completely out of his depth. Actors in secondary roles like Bruce Hutton (as DeWitt) and Marina Kalani (as the Queen), however, were surprise highlights.

Epic Proportions itself isn’t as strong as, say, Noises Off, but first-time Lake City director Doug Dawson (who doubled as an overly aggressive Jack) has put together a pleasantly conciliatory and, yes, funny counterweight to the unintentionally headline-making play that preceded it.

Epic Proportions Thu-Sat 7:30 pm, Sun 2 pm, through Mar 4 $9-$17 Lake City Playhouse 1320 E. Garden Ave., Coeur d’Alene lakecityplayhouse.org (208-667-1323)

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