By Joan Doggrell
Special to The Citizen
“Epic Proportions,” a fast-paced comedy by Larry Coen and David Crane, opens at Newnan Theatre Company on May 10. Artistic Director Paul Conroy is directing Justin Jessel, William Pratesi, and Laura Pratesi in this satirical tale of an attempt to make the movie epic to end all movie epics. One of the narrator’s lines is, “This is a story about…a lot of things.”
The setting is the Arizona desert in the 1930s – ironically, 20 years before epic movie spectaculars took the film industry by storm. The film crew has been out there for so long that one of the Vestal Virgins gives birth.
“The play was probably set in the ‘30s to foreshadow all the Biblical epics that were made in the ‘50s,” explained Conroy. “Hollywood learned that some epics are just too big to make. Later they split them up for less ambitious projects such as “The Ten Commandments,” “Ben-Hur,” and “Spartacus.”
The characters the Pratesis are portraying in “Epic” are not the idealized fairy tale roles they played in March of 2011, when they starred in the Newnan Theatre Company’s production of “Cinderella.” Everyone’s favorite romantic fairy tale of course ends with “They lived happily ever after.”
In the final “Cinderella” show, William proposed to Laura on stage. Now, a little more than a year later, “We’re very, very happy,” said Laura, with a smiling William at her side. They were married on October 15 at the First United Methodist Church in Newnan.
“It’s been a fairy tale. I know they say the first year of marriage is the hardest, but this has been the most fun,” said Laura.
Since their wedding, they’ve joined Masterworks Chorale and sang and danced in NTC’s “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.” Incidentally, they are both completing university degrees. Laura is an audiology specialist who graduates with her PhD in May. She starts a new job in June. William graduates from Georgia Tech with his mechanical engineering degree in December.
The main “Epic Proportions” characters are Benny and Phil (Jessel and Pratesi), two brothers who get hired as extras. Laura Pratesi (Louise Goldman) supervises the 3,400 extras played by four actors, who have a costume change for each different actor playing each different role.
“The script is funny enough,” said William. “But the shtick Paul has us doing makes it even funnier.”
“He’s such a talented director,” added Laura. “Everybody in the cast is just awesome to work with.”
After spending months re-enacting the Ten Plagues, Roman parades, feasts, and gladiator battles, the characters become involved in a drama of their own. Both brothers fall in love with Louise. As they compete for her affections, they begin to take over the entire production as director and star.
“I start off as William’s girlfriend, and then I dump him about halfway through the show for his brother,” said Laura. “Hilarity ensues. I get kidnapped at one point. William’s character, Phil, is sort of an egotistical maniac. By the end he has become the maniacal director of the entire movie. He gets to be the bad guy, and Justin has become the star of the movie with me. Life starts to imitate art.”
“Dave Dorrell is going to teach us stage combat,” said Jessel. “We get a pair of swords to duke it out with.” Jessel works at the First Baptist church as the music assistant.
The original “Epic Proportions” opened on December 1, 1986, off-Broadway at the Judith Anderson Theatre. Thirteen years later, the Broadway production, directed by Jerry Zaks, opened on October 1, 1999, at the Helen Hayes Theatre, where it ran for 93 performances.
The show is appropriate for all audiences. “If they like farces, Neil Simon, screwball comedy, any of that, they’re going to like this show,” said Conroy. “It’s epic.”
Also, it is the last show of the season, so if you still have season tickets, be sure to use them and buy new ones for the fabulous NTC season starting in the fall.
To make reservations, and for show and audition dates and times, visit Newnan Theatre Company’s web site at http://newnantheatre.org. The theatre building is located in historic downtown Newnan at 24 First Avenue.
If you have questions regarding the content of this or any show, email Artistic Director Paul Conroy at firstname.lastname@example.org.