Giant Leap | Review by Steve Bennett
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Giant Leap

Note: This review is from 2015

Review by Steve Bennett

Houston, we have a problem. The year is 1969 and Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and that other guy are about to set foot on the Hollywood sound stage where they’re faking the Moon landings. All they need a line that will resonate around the world and echo down the centuries to do justice to this historic moment.

So Nasa has hired a couple of creative minds – wisecracking comic Mitch Gitin and washed-up writer Frank Paar, a refuge from the McCarthy Communist witch-hunt – to pen the perfect phrase.

Mickey Down and Konrad Kay’s premise for Giant Leap is an inspired one, and their script starts full of vibrancy and terse humour, as the pair trade banter, then clash with their military handler; the ultra-serious Colonel who’s a clear anathema to the artistic spirit.

A desperate Jewish New York comic, somewhere between Woody Allen and George Costanza, is a role stand-up Lewis Schaffer was born to play; while Tom Stade equally well inhabits his role as a sarcastic drunk who’s past caring – extensions of their stand-up personas both.

This ultimate writing room has been put together by all-powerful Hollywood producer-cum-devil incarnate Jay Weinberg, ‘a wolf in wolf’s clothing’ by his own admission. Phil Nichol brings his usual intense energy to this swaggering alpha male, whose longer power-trip monologues provide a balancing pace to the zippy to-and-fro of the creatives.

The script, though, seems to lose momentum as it hits the second act; and misses the chance to have some fun with the process of forging the perfect line. The rejected ideas are mildly lame, not hilariously so; while the revelation of the ‘One small step…’ idea – the payoff everyone knows is coming – seems a bit of a cheat. Gitin, especially, who was so full of rapid-fire one-liners at the start seems to give up, but we don’t know why.

Despite going off-course, the story makes a reasonably successful touchdown, fuelled by Nichol’s boosters – yet there’s also a slight feeling of missed opportunity given how this Comedians Theatre Company production shot for the stars with such a strong set-up.

Review date: 18 Aug 2015
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Pleasance Courtyard

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