It's new play festival time again, as the Colony Studio Theatre launches its second such undertaking with a healthy sampling of premieres: Robert Canning's recently opened "Weekend Serenade," "Duets" (a trio of one-acts that opened this weekend), David Hall's "Talk Radio" and the John Rustan/Frank Semerano "Thataway Jack" (March 28), and Thomas Jones' "Circle on the Cross" (April 11).
"We got many more submissions (488) this year and the quality was better--especially the one-acts," noted Colony general manager Barbara Beckley (who also appears in "Serenade"). As a result, she says, the theater is hopping: "People are rehearsing in the lounge, the lobby, everywhere you look. And it's interesting to see the different styles of each director. In one room, everything is really relaxed; in the next, there's lots of wonderful, loud arguments."
As for the plays themselves, Beckley described "Duets" (Allan David Fox's "Baby Talk," Donald Briggs' "Intermission Feature" and Terry Dean's "Stormless Vows") as "very different from each other. The only thing they have in common is that they're about two people." The first features two "babies" discussing life, the next finds a divorced couple having a surprise meeting, the third has an estranged couple reuniting in their 25-years-ago honeymoon spot.
"The other one-acts are longer," Beckley added. "David Hall's ("Talk Radio") came out of his being on the road two years ago and always listening to these radio psychologists. He started thinking, 'What would happen if someone called in with a real life-or-death problem?' That's where the play takes off from. And 'Thataway Jack' is a spoof of those old 'B' westerns--hysterically funny. So the two plays don't relate to each other at all. One is serious and gripping, the other is dessert."
The festival's last entry, "Circle on the Cross," deals with an MIA who returns home to find his wife remarried. "The title refers to the Vietnam War Memorial Wall in Washington," Beckley noted. "Each name is preceded by a diamond or a cross. The diamond means a death confirmed. A cross means missing or presumed dead. If the death is later confirmed, a diamond is superimposed. If the person comes back, a circle will be superimposed on the cross."
Some titles don't require so much explanation. Witness Carol Bolt's "One Night Stand," opening Saturday at the Beverly Hills Playhouse.
"It's about a woman who meets a man and brings him home," said director Dennis Lamour, who saw the work many years ago at the Edinburgh Festival and has been trying since to acquire the rights. "It's a serious comedy about a sado-masochistic relationship. She's trying to seduce him, and he avoides the contact. It's very funny, very well-structured--and yes, it has a lot to do with sex."
LATE CUES: Opening Saturday at Al's National Theatre is Joel Bloom's "Mayhem at Mayfield Mall," a satire (what else?) featuring Tommy the Toxic Waste Monster. "Mall" also marks the debut of Drive-In-Drama, whereby traditional theater seating is replaced by viewing in the privacy of your own car. (Speakers will be provided for each vehicle.) Admission is $20 per carload--cash only.
Back for a return visit is the acclaimed Compagnie Philippe Genty, arriving Saturday at Cal State Fullerton. The French troupe utilizes marionettes, rod and hand puppets, bringing to life all kinds of magical creatures and illusions. . . . Also back in town is Ed Metzger, whose one-man show, "Einstein: The Practical Bohemian" plays benefit performances Thursday and Friday at Pepperdine.
WHAT PEOPLE ARE SAYING ABOUT . . . "La Victima": Group-composed by El Teatro de la Esperanza in 1976, this chronology of Mexican immigration history recently made its English-language premiere at the Los Angeles Theatre Center, where it has final performances today.
In this paper, Sylvie Drake applauded the resurgence of the potent and energizing agitprop Latino theater of the early '70s, and found it a "capably structured, jocular, self-spoofing and self-assertive piece, that drives home its points with strong humor and a subtext fraught with warnings." Drake also praised the trio of musicians and Jose de Santiago's wide-open, multi-purpose set, yet noted that "Above all, it is the ensemble of performers one admires, most of whom play more than one role with an eagerness and imagination to match the juice in the material."
Drama-Logue's Polly Warfield found "some strength and some power in this theater piece, along with its trauma and torment. The hope is only implicit, as it presents the Mexican soul in its warmth, resilience and grace of spirit."
And in the Herald-Examiner, Michael Lassell offered that "For many non-Latins, it is a shocking lesson in what has gone on in this century; to Latins, already familiar with the litany of degradation, it is a call for solidarity to force change. For everyone, it is a statement that the morality of democracy has its limits, and they are at the Rio Grande. . . ."