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STAGE REVIEW : 'Angry Housewives' . . . Flaky, Corny and Fun

June 30, 1988|DON SHIRLEY

The first act of "Angry Housewives," a musical at the Odyssey, ends with a riotously funny number. The title can't be printed in a family newspaper. Let's just say that it's sung by a sheltered housewife (Joan Ryan) who's liberated by performing in a punk band with three of her compatriots.

After this number, you'll be brushing corn flakes--yes, corn flakes--off your clothes and finding them in your pockets for the rest of the night. But most folks won't mind; each new-found flake will make them laugh anew.

It's a hard act to follow, and "Angry Housewives" doesn't really recover from the expectations engendered by that first-act finale. A second round of food-throwing and a second performance by the titular characters are, well, second-best.

Still, it's easy to see how "Angry Housewives" has played for more than five years in its hometown of Seattle. Even if no one except the organizers of women's birthday parties bought tickets, this show could play for months.

Which is not to say that it's strictly a women's show. Creator and author A. M. Collins and composer-lyricist Chad Henry went out of their way to showcase the men in the cast, too. In fact, if you're concerned about tidy dramatic construction, they went too far out of their way.

The opening song, a fairly standard punk ditty, is sung by the son (Ray Cochran) of one of the Angry Housewives. Later, two guys (Donn Simione and Nathan Holland) recall a mutual girlfriend in an engaging tap number (choreographer: Jon Engstrom) that has nothing to do with the rest of the show. In the second act, three of the men get to do a number in drag, though only one of them has a logical reason for cross-dressing.

But laughter, not logic, is the priority here. And once we get past the opening number and into the saga of the "Angry Housewives" themselves, this show creates laughter as if it had the patent.

The story opens at the home of Bev (Deanna McKinstry), a widow who's trying to raise a few bucks with a Betty Jean cosmetics party. Unfortunately, only three of her 39 guests show up.

McKinstry has a deliciously pinched face and seems perpetually on the edge of a nervous breakdown. Her guests are the divorced Carol (Kathy Garrick, a big woman with a musical comedy voice to match), the mousy Jetta (Ryan) and Wendi (Marti Muller), a carrousel operator at the Santa Monica Pier.

It's Wendi's bright idea to create a punk band with her pals called the Angry Housewives. There's a punk talent contest at a local club, see, and maybe the Housewives can win $750 apiece. Hey kids, let's put on a show.

Except for Carol, who falls for the guy (Holland) who runs the club, the women are opposed in their punk pursuits by the men in their lives. The most amusing opponent is Jetta's Neanderthal hubby Larry (Dennis Haskins), who tries to mollify her by offering to take her on a drive through beautiful Century City--an example of the deft transplanting of the show's locale to Los Angeles.

David Galligan's staging moves along at a fast clip, despite the padding in the script. Henry's pop-eclectic score is in the secure hands of music director John McDaniel. And the pop-fantastic design by Deborah Raymond and Dorian Vernacchio (set) and Bonnie Stauch (costumes) captures the breezy quality of the show for all it's worth.

Performances are at 12111 Ohio Ave., Wednesdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m., Sundays at 7 p.m., with selected matinees. Runs indefinitely. Tickets: $14.50-$18.50; (213) 826-1626.

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