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'Legend' on stage is a bit sleepy and hollow

Good acting gets lost in muddled, contrived finale

Schuyler Scott Mastain and Lori Reese star in Egyptian Theatre Company's "Sleepy Hollow."
Schuyler Scott Mastain and Lori Reese star in Egyptian Theatre Company's "Sleepy Hollow."
Kim Blackett

THE LEGEND OF SLEEPY HOLLOW, Steiner Egyptian Theatre, Park City, through Oct. 30 (435-649-9371 or Running time: one hour, 25 minutes (no intermission).

PARK CITY — In the Egyptian Theatre Company's new production of "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow," the first half of the show starts off nicely, if even a bit sleepy, but the scatter-shot second half rings much too hollow, leaving this stage adaptation, well, a bit headless.

The title is a little misleading since this is not a straight-forward retelling of Washington Irving's famous story. In this production, Irving's story about Ichabod Crane is a play within a play.

The show's setting is a 1930s radio production of "Sleepy Hollow" which is being broadcast from a haunted theater in Tarrytown.

The first half of the play is more or less the actors on the stage putting on the radio performance. (Radio shows were made to be heard not seen and this proves to be true here as well.)

The vocal characterization is great, but there is little to watch. The actors take turns reading their lines and then wander off to the back of the stage to smoke (the six or so cigarettes smoked, incidentally, caused more than a handful of the people in the front rows to cough or cover their mouths). There is little to no action on stage other than the radio sound effects person doing the clip-clopping of a horse's hooves.

Every 10 minutes or so something ominous happens to the theater — lightening striking, curtains falling, etc. — but the radio show goes forward. Just as the broadcast is coming to the gripping apex of "Sleepy Hollow," though, the production abandons the story and goes in a completely ludicrous direction — and not the madcapped, fun-filled kind of ludicrous.

There are murders, ghosts and demonic possessions, which, instead of being used for silly fun, are played much too seriously, with long stretches of dire drama. There are also a few laugh out loud moments.

It is difficult to get into the characters in the second half because there is little setup for them throughout the first half. There seems to be a vague effort to have the actors' radio characters mirror the ones they play in "Sleepy Hollow" (like the characters do in "Kiss Me Kate"), but it never really comes together.

An even more frustrating thing is that they never finish telling the story of Ichabod Crane. After leaving at the climax, the radio performers return and rehash some of the parts of the story that have gone before, but the ending is never told, leaving even the radio-show portion of the production unsatisfying.

The ending comes with a torrential downpour of plot exposition that is truly random. Plot contrivances are sown up with wild explanations and other seemingly important questions are completely ignored.

The cast of the show does a fine job. Their vocal work during the radio show brings "Sleepy Hollow" to life. Schuyler Mastain is great as the stuffy Crane, and Teresa Sanderson and John Darin get to show off some impressive vocal work as well.

Toward the end there is an allusion to a sequel, which, unfortunately, ranked as one of the scariest parts of the whole show.