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'Leonardo'

May 09, 1986|ELISABETH GRAHAM

Sebastian's West has a pleasant treat in "Leonardo the Florentine." George Tibbles' time travel comedy has a straightforward appeal, and here it is delivered by a strong cast with a flair for intelligent comic playing.

Tibbles, the veteran of many years of television comedy writing, has constructed a script that has a distinct sitcom feeling, but it's first-rate sitcom. Tibbles has created a 29-year-old Leonardo da Vinci who concocts a potion that transports him into 1986. The possibilities in such a situation are considerable, of course, but Tibbles wisely keeps the focus of his tale upon Leonardo's encounters with an American family vacationing in Florence. Happily, this comedy avoids, for the most part, the familiar cliched situations, instead keeping the humor on a down-to-earth, human level.

Vincent Ferrelli's direction keeps the mood bright, yet he is considerate of the play's more mellow tones. Fine comic timing is the order of the evening, and the performances are all solid, particularly D. Jay Bradley's as Leonardo's assistant and Kary Lynn Vail's as the New Jersey housewife. Bradley is engaging and very funny, and Vail's cool sarcasm never obscures her immense likability.

As Leonardo, William Lewis is pleasingly ingenuous, although at times his delivery is too formal, which detracts from his natural appeal. Still, he never quite suggests the eccentricity that the playwright seems to have intended. Navarre Perry draws the obnoxious American father with restraint, and Denise Granger plays the daughter with an unabashed romanticism that gives her romance with Leonardo a nice measure of sweetness.

Gil Morales' picturesque set ingeniously fits into both time periods, and Richard Holmes' lighting helps us make the frequent jumps from past to present.

"Leonardo the Florentine" continues through June 1 at Sebastian's West Dinner Playhouse, 140 Avenida Pico, San Clemente. Information is available at (714) 492-9950.

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