Linda Evans and Joan Collins in Legends(© Carol Rosegg)
Linda Evans and Joan Collins in Legends
(© Carol Rosegg)
In the mid-1980s, still basking in the afterglow of his success as a co-author of A Chorus Line, James Kirkwood wrote a play called Legends!, all about the (supposedly) comic mayhem that results when a hot-shot young producer tries to sign two feuding, fading Hollywood stars to star in a Broadway play. Kirkwood's opus began what was supposed to be a pre-Broadway tour in Dallas in January 1986, with real-life theater legends Carol Channing and Mary Martin respectively starring as Sylvia Glenn and Leatrice Monsée; but it received mostly awful reviews, and though the tour lasted a year, the plug was pulled before the show ever reached the Great White Way.

Now, for some unfathomable reason, Legends! has been resurrected for a national tour starring former Dynasty co-stars Joan Collins and Linda Evans. The fact that the acting styles of these ladies are totally different from each other is not a big problem given the characters they're playing, which are quite similar to their Dynasty personae: Sylvia is the sexy bitch, while Leatrice is the warm, sweet-natured one. But the fact remains that the play itself is terrible.

To be fair, Legends! is not entirely without wit. A small percentage of the zingers that fly between Sylvia and Leatrice are vaguely amusing, as are some inside jokes about showbiz celebs ranging from Paul (Newman) and Joanne (Woodward) to Lucille Lortel and Mickey Rooney. But most of the play's alleged humor is of the dull, hackneyed, contrived, and vulgar variety, with scenes of the women unwittingly consuming hash brownies or indulging in a catfight.. Among the countless flaws in the script, there is no discussion as to whether or not movie stars Sylvia and Leatrice have any prior stage credits. (Wouldn't you think this might come up, since Klemmer, the producer, wants them for a Broadway show?)

The new production seems to have been poorly directed by John Bowab, but it's hard to be sure, given the material -- not to mention the fact that the stars are more famous as personalities than as actresses, and Evans has no prior theater experience whatsoever. As for the supporting cast, Joe Farrell works hard to very little comic effect as the manic Klemmer; Tonye Patano manages to retain her dignity in the clichéd role of Aretha, a maid; Will Holman offers a diverting strip routine, choreographed by Denis Jones; and Ethan Matthews is engaging as the cop who arrives on the scene when an argument between Sylvia and Leatrice becomes a physical altercation.

Legends! looks handsome enough, thanks to Jesse Poleshuck's set, Phil Monat's lighting, and Nolan Miller's costumes; but the show's few sound effects, provided by sound designers T. Richard Fitzgerald and Carl Casella, are oddly unconvincing. Another problem is that an obvious attempt has been made to match the hairstyles that Collins and Evans wore in Dynasty, and the result is unflattering to both stars. This is especially true of Evans, whose wig is wildly inappropriate to a woman of her age. Also, the payoff of the catfight scene is supposed to come when Sylvia and Leatrice rip off each other's wigs; but here, presumably for reasons of vanity, the fight takes place offstage, and when the stars re-enter, they're not wearing wig caps. Instead, they're sporting shorter wigs that actually make them look better!

Almost as if Kirkwood had set himself up, Legends! contains several lines that can easily be taken as openings for critics. At one point, Sylvia remarks that nobody in the theater intentionally puts on a "steaming turd" of a play. Later, she tries to convince Leatrice that they should sign on to Klemmer's project for the sheer experience, even if it includes being raked over the coals by the press. And, in a labored "joke" that's repeated several times throughout the play, Klemmer insists on identifying himself as "the producer of the Off-Broadway hit Craps!" Remove the "s" from that title and you have a nasty but not inaccurate label for Legends! This theatrical dog should have been left to lie where it dropped dead almost 20 years ago.