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Stage Review : 'Red' Crammed With Good Intentions

December 31, 1985|LYNNE HEFFLEY

"Q ue pasa ?" The problem is serious. Mrs. Tomato cannot ripen (" es horrible ") and Senor Sandia --Mr. Watermelon--is losing seeds at an alarming rate. The color red-- rojo --is missing from the rainbow.

In Teatro para los Ninos' musical "Rainbow Red," it's up to Don Quixote to save the day.

Crammed with messages and good intentions, this bilingual production for children--the first in a new program from the Bilingual Foundation of the Arts--contains a mitigating dash of appeal as well.

Cervantes' Don Quixote, now a handsome young caballero espanol (Marc Cardiff) dressed in rusty armor, has a full day's work here. He must help young Alicia (Teresa Velarde) conquer her fears ("Don't be afraid to try, to dream, to cry," he sings). He must quell Mr. Pollution and Graffiti (both played by Armando Di Lorenzo, who also plays a third role--Quixote's steed Rocinante) and make conditions safe for Rainbow Red (Mary Bermudez, a vamp in red gown and sequins).

Oh, yes--the theme of brotherhood must be musically addressed: "We're a rainbow of colors sharing this space."

Co-written by Estela Scarlata and Carmen Zapata with music by Dick Hamilton, the songs and dialogue are a pleasing mixture of Spanish and English. The production, directed by Jonathan Lucas, has toured elementary schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District, and is plainly meant to be educational.

Uno, dos, tres . . . marzo, abril, mayo . . . Don Quixote helps the audience count and read the names of the months printed on large cards in both languages.

The performances are mixed. Sincere, appealing, just this side of stuffy, Cardiff's boy-next-door Don Quixote lends a note of calm to the proceedings. Vivacious Bermudez, who plays Verano (Summer) and Mrs. Tomato as well as Rainbow Red, is a good foil--warm, humorous and earthy.

Di Lorenzo's characterizations never vary. His Rocinante, Pollution and Graffiti share the same loud note, while Velarde's Alicia remains at a wide-eyed high pitch, in keeping with a plot set on fast-forward.

In its anxiety to prove itself and the worth of bilingual children's theater overall, the company has followed a "more is better" philosophy--with overstuffed results.

Teatro para los Ninos has the tools to bridge the gap between cultures--warmth and humor. A more leisurely pace will keep it on the right track.

Performances run through Sunday at 421 N. Avenue 19 at 2 p.m. on Thursday and Friday and at 1:30 and 3:30 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. (213) 225-4044)

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