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'Identical Twins' Just For Laughs

STAGE BEAT

September 04, 1987|DON SHIRLEY

"Identical Twins From Baltimore?!" sounds like a John Waters movie. Its title characters are the Undergrowth sisters--glamorous, black Jill (Sheryl Lee Ralph) and fat, white Jane (Patrick Lang--yes, a man in drag). They both seek fame--Jill as a pop singer, Jane as a prima ballerina.

But unlike, say, Waters' "Pink Flamingos," "Identical Twins" isn't set in Maryland, nor is it all that down and dirty. It more closely resembles "Dorian," a little musical that played the Harman Avenue Theater last year.

In fact, "Identical Twins" and "Dorian" share much the same score. Composer Dan Alvy, who co-produced both shows with director Scott Hardy, used at least seven songs from "Dorian" in "Identical Twins." Not surprisingly, most of these songs sound generic, as if their final destination is the pop charts instead of this particular show.

That they work at all is attributable to the fact that the two shows also share a plot: Scheming starlet leaves her best pal (here, her sister) behind on her way to the top. Yet while "Dorian" took its soapsuds quite seriously, Marc Mantell's book for "Identical Twins" is just for laughs--this show's saving grace.

Most of the laughs are courtesy of Lang, who looks like Dumbo in a tutu (costumer: Elizabeth Luce) and conveys an irrepressible sweetness through thick and thin--or rather thick and thick.

Ralph projects the requisite star quality for her role but also gets her share of the laughs. Kelly Britt again shines in her "Movie Moguls" solo, as she did in "Dorian," though the song still isn't very pertinent.

Though "Identical Twins" is much livelier than "Dorian," it isn't the hoot it hopes to be. But Hardy's staging and David Bright's musical direction keep things moving at a crisp clip, and the sight and sound of Lang may be enough entertainment for a hot September night.

Performances are at 8532 Sunset Blvd., Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m., Sundays at 7:30 p.m. Tickets: $16-$18.50; (213) 652-6165.

'DE OBEAH MON'

A musical adaptation of Moliere's "The Doctor in Spite of Himself," set on the Caribbean island of Khakikotonga, sounds promising, especially with the talents that are at the disposal of the creators of "De Obeah Mon" at the Gene Dynarski Theatre.

But those talents are not displayed to full advantage in the current incarnation of this show. The show remains promising.

"De Obeah Mon" is almost carried by the comic energy of Jimmy Justice, playing the role of a layabout who's beaten into service as a charlatan witch doctor. Justice's goofy face and angular limbs are irresistibly funny (especially when accompanied by Ron Cremers' gaudier outfits). His suave vocal delivery, while he poses as the doctor in Act II, stands in amusing contrast to his screwy looks.

The rest of the cast, though, appears less interested in the comedy than in giving a concert. The band occupies at least a quarter of the stage, leaving little room for choreographer Stephen Semien to create interesting movement. The actors sing and then move on.

This might be enough, as the voices--most notably those of Delores Hall and Gilbert Price--are impressive. The score, by Justice and Charles Douglass, isn't consistently Caribbean, also employing a wide variety of mainland black styles, but it does provide ample opportunity for the voices to make magic. Too often they don't.

The band sometimes overpowers the singing and the Caribbean accents aren't much help in making Douglass' lyrics comprehensible. A glossary of Caribbean terms might be a useful addition to the program. Also, the show could use a general streamlining. It's too slight to go on for nearly three hours.

The dancers don't get to break loose until late in the second act, when they conclude the show as the principals are changing into their curtain-call clothes--the most lavish costumes of the evening. We could use a taste of this sort of spectacle earlier.

Performances are at 5600 Sunset Blvd., Thursdays and Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 6 and 10 p.m., Sundays at 3 and 7 p.m. Tickets: $17.50; (213) 465-0070.

'A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM'

The late summer has been rife with "Midsummer Night's Dreams." Fourth in line is Tony Potter's bargain-basement version at the Globe Playhouse.

This one is at its best in the sprightly performances of Carol Jones and Janet Newberry as Helena and Hermia. The Mechanicals aren't bad, either, but nearly everyone else in the cast seems anonymous or worse. Puck (Derek Loughran) is much too impressed by his own jokes. One actor last Thursday appeared to be guessing his lines (and in fact, he was doing the role for the very first time, after the original actor had quit).

Robert Resetar's music adds a degree of charm, but Patricia Davis' costumes are standard at best, ugly at worst (the Oberon get-up).

Performances are at 1107 N. Kings Road., Wednesdays through Sundays at 8 p.m., through Sept. 27. Tickets: $10.50; (213) 654-5623.

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