The Big Uncut Flick is a 1953 live, mid-day movie program broadcast on the Dumont network. The audience is addressed as if they were the studio audience. The stereotypical hosts are a married couple. Jack Sheldon is a hyper announcer type and Arlene Lewis is a grand dame. During commercial breaks they extoll dog food, cigarettes, frozen dinners and laxatives. There’s a quiz show portion as well. References to Sen. Joseph R. McCarthy and the Red Scare are also tossed in.
Say Your Prayers, Ya Mug! is the name of the 1930’s gangster movie that’s being shown on television and that is performed in tandem with the in-studio portions of the show. It’s an Angels With Dirty Faces-style parody with an escaped criminal on the lam, his sister who is a nun, tough policemen, a hard-edged showgirl, a shady lawyer and a landlady with an Irish brogue among the stock characters.
Playwright Todd Michael has diligently assembled a multitude of clichés associated with the gangster film. Michael has infused his suitably rat-a-tat-tat dialogue with accurate details. The plot is a meager rehash of familiar elements of the genre. At 70 minutes, it has the potential to be at best a breezy diversion but its stale conception is further undermined by the routine direction.
Director Synge Maher’s energetic curtain call is a wacky musical number and more of that pizzazz throughout the show itself would have been an improvement. The staging is a basic getting the actors on and off the stage presentation with a paucity of farcical flourishes. Ms. Maher does achieve some vivid performances from the game cast.
With the comedic intensity of Andrea Martin, Meg Mark is hilarious in the dual roles of a Jean Harlow-type moll and as a young, Barbara Stanwyck-type good girl.
The boyishly appealing Craig MacArthur really scores in several roles including the brash, dem and dose gangster and an Irish cop. Mr. MacArthur’s bright presence and commanding, varying vocal delivery elevates his characterizations. “You used to have a heart. Next time you pass a butcher shop why don’tcha go in and buy yourself one” plainly spoken by him is one of his numerous fine moments.
- J. Richey Nash is delightfully animated as the television host. Mr. Michael’s matronly grandeur while in drag is quite mirthful as Nash’s spouse, Arlene Lewis.
In five different roles, the expertly versatile Dan Morrison is heavy on the volume and brings tremendous focus to each one, especially a twitchy John Cazale-type henchman with often comical results.
As a police sergeant and a rough nightclub owner, Timothy J. Cox is very effective. Playing a male police sergeant, Melissa Firlit brings a great deal of depth the part.
Encased in a nun’s habbit, David L. Zweirs ably veers from serene to frantic. Mr. Zweirs is also the designer of the witty costumes that range from the basic to the flamboyant.
Louis Lopardi’s dynamic sound design evocatively channels the aural essences of 1950’s television and 1930’s Hollywood with its well-modulated blend of music and effects.
The not credited minimal scenic design consists of tables and chairs and posters of 1930’s movies on the stage’s walls.
The Big Uncut Flick is good-natured but ultimately only mildly amusing rather then uproarious.
The Big Uncut Flick (through December 17, 2016)
Studio Theatre at Theatre Row, 410 West 42nd Street, in Manhattan
For tickets, call 800-447-7400 or visit http://www.thebiguncutflick.com
Running time: 70 minutes with no intermission