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Stage Beat

'Peacocks' at the Deja Vu / 'Summer Storm' at the Mise En Scene / 'Jack and Beanstalk' at Celtic Arts Center / 'Scrambled Eggs' at Al's Bar

January 08, 1988|ROBERT KOEHLER

With the unpretentiousness of a ballgame, "Peacocks," at the Deja Vu Coffeehouse, delivers a lighthearted pitch for peace in the war of sexual preferences. Authors Cathy Bauer, Beryl Rochatka, Judy De Tar and Helene Schpak clothe their deeper intentions--to urge lesbians to come out of the closet of "politically correct" separatism--in the garb of a situation comedy.

But "Peacocks" stands out among its sitcom rivals (especially previous work at this space and its neighbor, the Fifth Estate) with invigorating plot twists and turns, a relaxed, credible cast and some whimsical character insights.

"The Peacocks" is a softball team made up of both lesbians and straight women. Yet what's equally important is that they're at the whim of their sponsor, The Peacock Lounge, which wants to bump the three straights off the team.

The playwrights build that conflict nicely enough, but through it all they spin the farcical maneuverings of Chris (gay) and Emma (straight), who crashed a borrowed Mercedes into the bottom of an empty pool. They (their ghosts?) drop in on a postgame party, and sparks fly. It feels like a real party, too: the lulls, the casual banter among old friends, the clashes between the party's two hostesses/roommates.

Director Elaine Suranie injects a lived-in quality while managing the illusion that we're eavesdropping. (She also makes blocking the 11-member cast on the postage stamp-sized stage look easy.)

The cast accents the comedy's sharpest dialogue and nicely fords some choppy, soggy passages. Whether it's Lisa Guggenheim's foul-mouthed kid or Felecia Bell's hounded coach, this is a play full of individuals and thoughtfully individual performances.

Performances are at 1705 N. Kenmore Ave. on Thursdays through Sundays, 8 p.m., runs indefinitely. Tickets: $7; (213) 666-0434.

'Summer Storm'

It's raining all over Bruce Speas' "Summer Storm," at the Mise En Scene, due to that classic triple threat: a playwright who approaches things with terminal seriousness, a lame director's hand and unimaginative, plodding actors.

This is the kind of play that begins with foreboding talk of a storm, unsubtly suggesting that an emotional storm is coming. This is the kind of production (with a standard-issue set by Herb Rodgers and Robert McDavid and substandard lights by Rhonda Le Fromage) in which the impact of the cloudburst is nearly invisible and inaudible.

Thinner still is that emotional storm, fomented by a stranger (Sean McGillicuddy) visiting the home of the man who accidentally destroyed his family (Kirk Scott). Are we really meant, in 1988, to be concerned whether or not a country daughter (Kelly Jones) defies her mother (Carol Christopher) and runs off to New York City? Scott Rogers' actors certainly don't seem to be. They look bored stiff trudging through such trite naturalism. Not a good start to the year.

Performances are at 11305 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood, on Thursdays through Saturdays, 8 p.m., Sundays, 2 and 7 p.m., until Jan. 24. Tickets: $10-$12.50; (818) 763-3101.

'Scrambled Eggs'

Downtown at Al's Bar last Saturday, it sounded like there was more action in the poolroom next door than what was happening on stage. If scrambled eggs represent the lowest culinary form of egg preparation, "Scrambled Eggs" represents the lowest form of comedy.

The show, co-directed by Lucy Lee Lawrence, Damon Collins and Ritch Pumpernickel, intersperses skits (written by Collins) with stand-up comics. Perhaps the thinking is that if a skit dies, the comic will pick things up.

Wishful thinking. The skits included a parody of "Star Trek" in costumes looking like they were bought at a flea market--and this was the program's high point. Only the first of three stand-ups, Dillon Broudy, with a twitchy New York persona, escaped rigor mortis.

Performances are at 305 S. Hewitt on Saturdays and Sundays, 4 p.m. (last weekend, curtain was at 4:45 p.m.), through Jan. 17. Tickets: $4 per person, $7 for two; (213) 617-9063.

'Jack and the Beanstalk'

The new show at Celtic Arts Center, "Jack and the Beanstalk," is subtitled "a musical pantomime in the European Tradition." But the rather adult take on this ancient fable by the writing team of Steve Gaghagen, Joan Mullin, Ivan Selwood and Joe Praml and director Sean Fallon Walsh is more precisely associated with the ribald British "Panto" tradition. (Celtic Arts isn't alone: Theatre Exchange is currently doing a panto of "Rumpelstiltskin.")

The problem is that panto is supposed to be funny, and Walsh's production barely elicits a laugh. Gaghagen, in a hambone, ultra-drag turn as Jack's mother, tries awfully hard, as does William Knight as a crafty landlord, and Sean O'Connor and Michael Conn as two pettifoggers.

Yet this is the broadest--and dumbest--of broad material (sample: we're told that the Giant is negotiating with NBC for a miniseries on his life), and the ensemble's extra effort only quells the chuckles. Barbara Hooper's Jack is pleasantly straight-arrow, and Arlen Sanders knows how to get a laugh as a nonchalant chicken: he just quietly sits and folds his legs.

Performances are at 5651 Hollywood Blvd. on Fridays and Saturdays, 8 p.m., Sundays, 7 p.m. through Jan. 31. Tickets: $2.50-$6; (213) 462-6844.

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