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Writing for Us
A CurtainUp Review
If It Was Easy

John Jellison has done it again. After landing a leading part in an imperfect and not very funny new comedy, Imperfect Chemistry, last season, the genial and not untalented actor has top billing in a show that is even more imperfect and not even a whit funny. One could forgive If It Was Easy its ungrammatical title (one of many lame visual jokes), if it were easier to find at least a few things to warrant two hours of one's time, and a $55 outlay for a ticket.

The two collaborators of this leading candidate for an unfunniest comedy of the season award should certainly know better. Both have been theater professionals for many years, Stewart F. Lane as a theater owner and producer and Ward Morehouse III as a theatrical journalist (critic and gossip columnist). Actually they got off to a right start by following the golden rule that says "write about what you know". Their subect is the theater, and their story revolves around a theatre producer (John Jellison) and a Broadway columnist (Bonnie Comley) who concoct a show called Sinatra: The Musical which is just awful enough to wind its way down the rocky road to success.

Unfortunately, the play Lane and Morehouse have written is as bad as the show within their show. Their claim that If It Was Easy is "a thinking man's The Producers and "just as zany and off the wall" should not cause Mel Brooks or any of the people involved with that much anticipated Broadway revival to lose any sleep. If It Was Easy is silly but not zany and above else derivative. It's like those Little Bit of Everything soups on the menu in most Noodle shops -- its filled with bits and pieces of plot strands and comic devices. Each snippet seems to have come from a show and tt done elsewhere and better: from the gangster who bankrolls the show (hit man makes hit-- get it?) . . . to the dumb but sexy small town secretary (the gimmick here is that she's from Lancaster and paves the way for an Amish daddy). . . to the closet door that slams shut at the wrong time. . . to the predictable surprise ending .

Mr. Jellison and Ms. Comley wrestle gamely with their parts, as do the five other actors unlucky enough to have landed parts in this show. You can't even applaud the scenery which is ugly and often awkward. The best thing about this show about a Frank Sinatra musical are the Sinatra songs played between scene changes.

.
IF IT WAS EASY
by Stewart F. Lane and Ward Morehouse III
Directed by Stewart F. Lane
Cast: John Jellison, and Bonnie Comley; also Brad Bellamy, Gustave Johnson, Christian Kauffmann, Martin LaPlatney, William Marshall Miller and Vicki Van Tassel.
Set Design: Michael Anania Lighting Design: Phil Monat
Costume Design:Steven Epstein
Sound Design: Peter Fitzgerald
Running Time: 2 hours, including one 15 minute intermission.
Douglas Fairbanks, 432 W. 42nd St. (9th/10th Avs)239-6200
Performances from 2/15/01; opening 3/08/01 -- Tickets $55-60
Reviewed by Elyse Sommer
broadwaynewyork.com


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