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'Real Thing' not real; 'Measure' too light; 'Bishop' won't fly; 'Messiah'

Sputtering through 'Billy Bishop' ''Billy Bishop Goes to War,'' playing at the Crown Theatre at the Bradford Hotel, is a one-man show about a cowardly Canadian cavalry officer who transforms into a bloodthirsty pilot, downing 72 German planes during World War I.

Sometimes it soars, sometimes it dives. Mostly it sputters.

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It's not all bad. Actor Cedric Smith has the looks of David Niven and the sleaziness of Jack Nicholson, a good combination for this confusing man. And some of his accounts of the loneliness, fear, and, later, exultation of Bishop's combat scenes are truly riveting.

But he pushes the laughs, cranks up the tears, and while he flies expertly in and out of his other characters, 17 men and women, in his hands, they're stereotypical and flat.

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