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'Legends' A Cautious Hit In Dallas

January 22, 1986|DAN SULLIVAN | Times Theater Critic

"Legends," starring two ladies who do seem to answer that job description, Mary Martin and Carol Channing, opens previews at the Ahmanson Thursday after a mixed reception in Dallas. The audience wanted more curtain calls (Martin and Channing begged off after seven), while the critics wanted more show.

Martin and Channing play two catty ex-movie queens who find themselves together on the comeback trail. Dan Hulbert of the Dallas Times-Herald thought it was great to have Carol and Mary together for the first time, but didn't think James Kirkwood's script matched their magic.

"Martin and Channing are so much richer and more interesting than Leatrice and Sylvia that we tend to tune out the characters and become more absorbed in the women playing them," Hulbert wrote.

Russell Smith of the Dallas News found the play "bitchy, loving, occasionally funny," but thought that the second act needed "yet more time"--including rehearsal time. "It's an interesting idea and a to-die-for vehicle. Whether it will make it to Broadway depends mightily on the flexibility of its creators and its stars."

Variety's man in Dallas found it "a generally agreeable, frequently witty comedy that allows these two theatrical favorites to both amuse and surprise their legions of fans"--but added that "the magic begins to evaporate somewhere along about mid-point in the second act."

Liz Smith reported in the New York Daily News that "the 72-year-old Martin is terrific in her part and the 19-year-old Channing (this is the age given by her husband, the faithful Charles Lowe) is equally marvelous."

It opens Feb. 2 at the Ahmanson.

Peter Sellars' latest production for the Kennedy Center's American National Theater is Chekhov's "The Seagull," retitled "A Seagull." That's not the only change.

"It's like no Chekhov play you've ever seen before," wrote Louise Sweeney in the Christian Science Monitor. "Lasers, starkly abstract sets, a grand piano on stage churning out Scriabin for four acts like music for a silent movie."

David Richards in the Washington Post was disappointed: "Surprising as Sellars' innovations continue to be, this time they tear holes in the delicate Chekhovian fabric. His vision is often breathtaking to look at, but it rarely touches the heart."

Mel Gussow in the New York Times was positively cross. He accused Sellars of an "aberrant approach" that stressed "tricks, quirks and sight gags at Chekhov's expense. In search of directorial signatures, Mr. Sellars cannot seem to keep his mind on the play's values."

QUOTE OF THE WEEK. George Burns in the Hollywood Reporter: "With acting, the most important thing is honesty. If you can fake that, you've got it made."

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