Fight Night, Round 2

The bitches are back, and it's worse than you think.

Legends! The Palace Theatre, 1519 Euclid Avenue Through April 1, 216-241-6000
It's often been said in defense of some theatrical enterprise or another that while a production may not be genius, "It isn't exactly chopped liver." This begs the question: What exactly is chopped liver when it comes to a stage production? Well, we have found it. A huge, steaming pile of it.

Legends! is a misbegotten vehicle intended to be inhabited by two grand dames from the performance world. Instead, we are given Joan Collins and Linda Evans -- the brow-lifted, tucked-and-painted crypt-keepers who once scratched each other's eyes out on the '80s prime-time soap Dynasty. They're now reunited in a play that is so dreadful, Blake Carrington would have happily paid a Moldavian hit squad to massacre anyone responsible.

Written by James Kirkwood some 20 years ago, the show originally starred Carol Channing and Mary Martin as two fading and feuding actresses cast in a play mostly because of their ticket-selling potential. The show flopped before it made it to Broadway, and it had actual stars playing the parts. This cynical version was clearly assembled to lure aging, couch-bound, Cheetos-snuffling Dynasty devotees downtown to see a couple live celebrities in a real thee-ayter.

Trouble is, Alexis and Krystle . . . er, Joan and Linda can't shoot their performances in 15- or 30-second chunks or ask for retakes. And since neither actress has the faintest clue how to develop a character, let alone build and sustain a scene, the extended minutes the two are onstage together begin to feel like some exquisite torture devised by Blackwater mercenaries at Guantanamo.

Collins does fare a bit better, simply because she has the ability to speak audibly. Evans talks in a breathy monotone that might work on a soundstage, but nearly disappears in the cavernous Palace Theatre. Sadly, each is also decked out in age-inappropriate wigs, which are meant to recall their glory days, but just come off as pathetic.

In fairness, it's not all their fault, since Kirkwood's script is almost unfailingly moronic and predictable, launching lame insults like "You're so old, you must have come to Hollywood in a covered wagon." The comeback: "Yeah, but at least I was riding in the wagon, not pulling it." In another moment, Collins tells the black maid to "go into the kitchen, and pick some cotton."

If you've already purchased tickets as part of a subscription plan, and you can't give them to someone you never plan to speak to again, here's the deal: Settle back and enjoy watching Joe Farrell (who plays a young producer) go crazy after being fed hash-laced brownies. It's wildly inaccurate as such buzzes go, but still funny. Amuse yourself with Tonye Patano's Nell Carter impression as the sassy maid. And take notice of Will Holman's high-energy striptease, which includes a standing jump onto a baby grand.

But try to block out the stars. Consider it an act of mercy for everyone involved.

About The Author

Christine Howey

Christine Howey has been reviewing theater since 1997, first at Cleveland Free Times and then for other publications including City Pages in Minneapolis, MN and The Plain Dealer. Her blog, Rave and Pan, also features her play reviews. Christine is a former stage actor and director, primarily at Dobama Theatre...
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