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Picking The Best Of The 1985 Waiver Scene : 'Berlin, Broadway' And 'groundlings'

January 03, 1986|DON SHIRLEY

Our Stage Beaters , who assiduously beat the bushes and back alleys in search of good theater, here give us their Best of 1985 to salute 1986.

Very few of the shows I review for The Times would merit one return visit, let alone two. But I've seen "Berlin to Broadway With Kurt Weill" three times, and I'd go back for more. It's the best musical revue I've seen in Los Angeles.

On one memorable evening in October, I watched Paul Hough's original cast return to "Berlin to Broadway" (213) 851-3771), then strolled down Melrose and laughed myself silly at "Groundlings From Outer Space" (213) 934-9700).

Anyone can reconstruct this homemade double bill on any Saturday evening, thanks to a 6:30 show time for "Berlin" and a 10:30 curtain at Groundling Central.

The most impressive new works I reviewed this year were Donald Krieger's mesmerizing "Rocket," at the Powerhouse, and John Bishop's "Borderline," a compact and powerful one-act at the Skylight.

The two plays were utterly different in technique and appearance, yet they shared a theme: the floundering attempts of men to transcend their debilitating daily routines and grab onto something that lasts. The paths followed by both protagonists were wrongheaded, even suicidal, yet Krieger appeared slightly more hopeful.

"Borderline" reopens Jan. 18, (213) 874-3678). Its producer is Camelot Artists, formerly Beverly Hills Playhouse Productions, which also contributed the funny, feathery "Ship Shapes" and Trish Johnson's affable tale of female friendship, "The Art of Self Defense," to my better memories of 1985.

Anne Haney was terrific in "Verdigris," Jim Beaver's play about a tough old lady, at Theatre West. Even harder-boiled was the old coot Sammy Shore played, to hilarious effect, in his otherwise forgettable "Hard Laughs" at the Santa Monica Playhouse.

The year's better revivals included "Holiday" and "Light Up the Sky" at Room for Theatre, "Annie" at Long Beach Civic Light Opera and "The Traveling Lady" at Actors Alley. Finally, a toast to the most disreputable play that I nevertheless thoroughly enjoyed: "A Bedfull of Foreigners," as staged by Joseph Ruskin at the West End Playhouse.

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