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STAGE REVIEW : 'Space Pandas' in Irvine: A David Mamet Play for the Children

February 25, 1988|LYNNE HEFFLEY

Although the South Coast Musical Theatre's production of "Revenge of the Space Pandas" at University High's Irvine Little Theatre is a cartoonish muddle, it is of some interest--chiefly because the play was written by Pulitzer Prize winner David Mamet.

Yes, the same Mamet who is known for razor-edged humor and strong language in such adult plays as "American Buffalo" and "Glengarry Glen Ross" wrote this lightweight saga of 12-year-old Binky Rudich and his adventures on the planet Crestview.

With panda aliens, a movie-mad dictator, a smart-aleck jester, an actor on the skids and a camera-conscious newscaster, "Pandas" is like one of those rambling bedtime stories you might spin out for your own child, throwing in bits of satiric nonsense to keep yourself interested.

Binky's (Eliam Kraiem) two-speed clock invention sends him and friends Vivian and Bob the Sheep (Nicole Odekirk and Karl Stenske) into outer space. They land on Crestview and find themselves in jeopardy: Supreme Ruler George Topax (Michael Wardner) wants to make a letter sweater out of Bob's wool and then dispatch the three by whacking them on the head with a giant pumpkin.

Pursued by Topax's army of pandas, the trio meets movie actor Edward Farpis (Chris Jones), former star of "Beast of the Goolagong" and "Revenge of the Space Pandas," now a panhandler.

Chase sequences and confrontations lead to a happy ending for all, except for the Jester (David Pritikin) whose troubadour act out of the Middle Ages prompts Topax to ask, "Where do you get off singing all that drivel?" The Jester replies, "It's art , sire!" Unmoved, Topax has the Jester pumpkin-whacked.

Ron Kennihan's sets are bland, but Milton Markey's lighting is fine, and the costumes and makeup are colorful if unimaginative (the harlequin Jester fares best). Daniel R. Trevino undemandingly directs his amateur cast of teen-agers and young adults, who handle themselves adequately and convey a sense of fun, but whose general inexperience adds to an overall lack of clarity.

Performances at 4771 Campus Drive run today and Friday at 7:30 p.m., Saturday at 2:30 and 7:30 p.m., with a final matinee Sunday at 2:30 p.m. Tickets: $5-$6; (714) 640-6306.

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