The show-stealing stars of Los Angeles City College's production of "The Adventures of Pinocchio," based on C. Collodi's classic tale, are its set design and costumes.
The Camino Theatre stage resembles quaint old fairy tale illustrations, with David Maverick Lane's painted curtain, villages, trees, cottages and props all marvelously askew.
Diane Sisko's costumes and masks are vividly stylized, from a glossy 100-year-old cricket to the enormous papier-mache head of the Fire-Eater.
Under Winston Butler's direction, body movement is another stylish element.
Vince De Cenzo, fine as the bumbling wooden Pinocchio, whose selfishness is innocent and contrition sincere, maintains an appealingly hoppity puppet walk.
Cricket Matthew J. Shields moves in a decidedly insectlike way in his black swallowtail coat, and as the learned Crow, Kevin Finister uses birdlike head gestures that are just enough.
But the production is uneven, too loud and--at two hours--too long, despite the visual treats.
Tumbling, slapstick Commedia dell'Arte-style clowns in white-face--who also act as townspeople, donkeys and black-cloaked assassins--introduce the action, move props and interject exaggerated comment throughout. They supply humor, but loud and frantic line delivery gets in the way.
Unwelcome volume occurs as the amplified voices of the Fire Eater (Lyle Ticer) and the Fish Monger (Sterling G. Nix) blast forth--a shame, since both huge characters are fascinating to see.
In other roles, Nix and Ticer satisfyingly play Ringmaster and Wagon Master, dastardly villains who plot the downfall of naughty children.
As the Blue Fairy who makes Pinocchio's dream of becoming a real boy come true, Cat Dale looks the part in a voluminous sparkling blue gown. But her unshaded performance makes the sweet fairy seem a humorless do-gooder.
She sounds huffy when she says, "If people would only take my advice . . . I'm always right."
She is also victim of a surprisingly graceless moment. In the intended dramatic conclusion, Dale is hoisted into the air on wires. One almost wonders if she was expecting it, as her legs dangle awkwardly. It's a long way up.
But the audience enjoyed it when the actors brought the action into the aisles and cheered Pinocchio on when invited to do so.
Performances play Friday at 7:30 p.m., Saturday at 10:30 a.m., 2 and 7:30 p.m. and on Sunday at 2 p.m. (213) 669-5528)