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Stage Beat

'Twelfth Night' at Mount St. Mary's / 'T Bone N Weasel' at Victory / 'Candida' at Play Box / 'Putting It on the Line' at the Skylight

November 13, 1987|RAY LOYND

Imagine a play without a director, costumes, sets or lighting design. The only components are the words, five actors and the audience. Imagine that this is Shakespeare unedited (the original script in the First Folio) and, finally, consider that these spare circumstances produce an almost magical, seamlessly clear "Twelfth Night."

Such is the reward delivered by five professional actors from London in residence this week at Mount St. Mary's College as part of the ongoing educational program developed by ACTER (the Alliance for Creative Theatre, Education and Research), an international research and educational theater institute based in London and at UC Santa Barbara.

The troupe, known as Actors from the London Stage (including members from the Royal Shakespeare Company and National Theater of Great Britain) repeats "Twelfth Night" Saturday only before moving on to Cal State University at San Francisco next week. (Tonight the group enacts excerpts from plays by Shaw.)

The most indelible impression from the lovesick antics of this "Twelfth Night" is the focus and boldness the players bring to the language. With no safety nets, the result is pure theater. Often the actors don't even have each other to play against; actress Vivien Heilbron single-handedly enacts the reunion of the twins, the sweet love-smitten Viola and her brother Sebastian. Actor Sam Dale plays the duke Orsino, the sad/manipulative clown Feste, the servant Fabian and a ship's officer.

Mercurial line shifts from the same actor spin on: Richard Simpson is both drunk (Sir Toby Belch) and sober (sea captain Antonio). Julia Watson is the rich countess Olivia and the madcap servant Maria. Clifford Rose is the foolish Malvolio and brawling Aguecheek.

The actors directed each other and their self-reliance and flexibility encourage you to imagine an Elizabethan household with its gossip and amusements and permutations of love (as food, music, concealment, torment).

A cautionary note: Because there are no physical production values (except for sly props such as a tambourine or a flower), the performance never suggests the mellow remoteness of Illyria, and a familiarity with plot and characters becomes almost a must.

Performances are in the Little Theater, 12001 Chalon Road, 8 p.m. Tickets: $5-$15; (213) 476-2237, Ext. 3512. 'T Bone N Weasel'

"T Bone N Weasel" is a comedy about the misadventures of two drifters in the South.

Playwright Jon Klein's back-roads odyssey at the Victory Theatre (a West Coast premiere) is picaresque both in structure and tone. Keith Fowler directs with a light and often jaunty touch, but he is also locked into a 28-scene/blackout format that deprives the play of momentum.

The two protagonists are parolees, a white man named Weasel (Ron Kuhlman) and a black one named T Bone (Derrick Morgan). They endure racism and other human scourges in the figure of actor Ken Letner, whose nine characters (car salesman, cop, bum, politician among them) are dispatched with panache.

Kuhlman is a textured actor, provoking grudging warmth for an ignorant but not stupid roughneck. Morgan counterpoints with a reckless urban sheen.

The dialogue is humorous. The theme is friendship and it's dramatized with unspoken economy.

Scenic and lighting design are flavorfully rendered by D. Martyn Bookwalter.

Performances are at 3326 West Victory Blvd., Burbank, Thursdays through Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m., indefinitely. Tickets: $12.50; (818) 843-9253 or (213) 465-0070. 'Candida'

Candida is George Bernard Shaw's most modern and appealing female character--a clever philistine whose intelligence leaves the smitten men in her life bedazed. Actress Vivien Ferrara's performance is cold/comfortable.

In short, on the mark.

Here is one of Shaw's shortest plays (tightly but not hastily modulated by director John Larson), one of his most playable and one of the least Shavian.

There's some blood here, but no lectures. With one glaring exception, the show is an impressive send-off for the cozy, arena Play Box Theater, where you sit inches from the stage.

The exception to an otherwise strong production is actor Tom Williams as the 18-year-old poet Marchbanks, whose flaming love for Candida comes off as fey and callow instead of keen-witted and courageous, as Shaw intended. That miscasting is rattling but not dismantling. Besides Ferrara's luminous Candida, her pompous clergyman husband is played with perfect pitch by Alvah Stanley.

Minor roles are beautifully cast: Robert MacRichard's twirpy curate, Jack L. Harrell's vulgar father and Lisa Denke's brittle, sensitive typist. (Denke, in fact, steals the show.) Period costumes (by actor Harrell) and Victorian props are sharp. Denke works at a typewriter that looks antique enough to date back to 1895, the year the play opened.

Performances are at 1955 Cahuenga Blvd., Fridays and Saturdays, 8 p.m., through Nov. 21. Tickets: $10; (213) 465-8059.

'Putting It on the Line'

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