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'Shakers' Is the UK/LA Offering at Odyssey; LAAFO to Begin With a Spanish Comedy

February 25, 1988|SYLVIE DRAKE | Times Theater Writer

The Odyssey Theatre Ensemble had to let go of its projected production of "Acapulco" because author-director Steven Berkoff is busy with a film in Europe.

To replace its entry into the UK/LA Festival '88, it has come up with "Shakers," a companion piece to John Godber's hard-edged "Bouncers," which was produced locally in 1986 by L.A. Theatre Works and cleaned up at the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle awards, winning seven out of seven nominations. "Shakers" is written by Godber and fellow Briton Jane Thornton. Instead of barroom bouncers, its protagonists are . . . barroom waitresses.

"It's (life) from the women's point of view, somewhat more humanistic, softer, than 'Bouncers,' " said producer Ron Sossi, whose evaluation was echoed by "Shakers" director Ron Link (who had earlier staged "Bouncers"):

"I optioned 'Shakers' when I optioned 'Bouncers.' As in 'Bouncers,' (where men sometimes play women), the women (sometimes) play men, filling us in on all the stupid things that men do to come on to women, which makes them feel they're a notch above (women) very early in life. The play has a continuous liquid line, but is not so much a bombardment as an engaging reproach.

"Where 'Bouncers' was MTV and angry," Link added, "this is all curves. Even the design (by Fred Deuer) is circular as opposed to the 'Bouncers' grid. Each of the women has her own inner monologue that is only similar in style (to the 'Bouncers' monologues). They're a lot younger, and the politics are feminine. Theirs is a different kind of boredom. The guys were already awake to this boredom; the girls are just waking up to it."

"Shakers," which features Kristen Lowman, Yeardley Smith, Cameron Milzer and Leslie Sachs, will have a mid-March opening.

NO LAAFO-ING MATTER: Sossi's LAAFO (Latin Actors and a Few Others), which has been organizing over the last few months, is getting off at about the same time as "Shakers" at the Odyssey. On March 19, the new ensemble hopes to open Spanish playwright Miguel Mihura's 1932 "Three Top Hats," in a translation by Marcia Cobourn Wellworth.

"It's a very Fellini-esque romantic comedy with a touch of the absurd," Sossi said. "Eugene Ionesco cites this play as one of the influences on his work. A young man who comes to a strange town where he's to be married the next day is involved in an all-night party in a hotel by a troupe of itinerant vaudevillians. It's delightful, stylized, a sort of metaphor for Spain at the time. . . . "

About the company, Sossi added: "It's two-thirds Hispanic . . . a merging of the ensemble that did 'Journey to Arcturus' (an earlier flawed but ambitious Odyssey production) and of the original Hispanic ensemble we had been trying to put together."

WELCOME HOME, SALLY: Actress Sally Kirkland, who had a strong background in Equity Waiver theater long before she had an Oscar nomination for her work in the film "Anna," will be the guest of honor at the Los Angeles Drama Critics' Circle's 19th annual awards in March.

The LADCC has also announced the recipient of its 1987 Margaret Harford award, named for the late Times theater columnist and critic and given for continuing contribution to theater. It is the Mark Taper Forum's 17-year-old Improvisational Theatre Project (ITP) and its director Peter C. Brosius.

From its inception in 1971 (as a direct offshoot of Paul Sills' Story Theatre and the Spolin theater games), the troupe's focus has been on the creation of new scripts astutely tailored to the young audiences it plays for in Southland schools and on tour (Colorado, Arizona and Washington). It is the closest thing the Taper has to a true (and superior) ensemble.

Finally, the circle has voted a Lifetime Achievement award to the veteran Los Angeles theater duo of Forman Brown and Harry Burnett, whose Turnabout Playhouse on La Cienega Boulevard near Santa Monica Boulevard was a joyous beacon for theater lovers and one of the very few local stages producing mime (with Lotte Goslar), puppet shows and original musical theater (and where the late Elsa Lanchester performed regularly) in that unremarkable stretch of the '40s and '50s.

The award to Brown and Burnett is the first such lifetime recognition made by the LADCC. The awards will be held at a dinner March 28 at the Sheraton Grande Hotel.

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