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STAGE REVIEW : 'Coming of Age' Explores fortysomething

October 08, 1988|RAY LOYND

It's salutary to find a musical revue that disdains youth and casts people who appear fortysomething and fiftysomething. And it's a pleasure to find them sexy, as in style, irony, wit, looks.

"Coming of Age," which continues through Oct. 16 at the West Coast Theatre Ensemble, is a prickly bouquet with a promising future as cabaret theater: It would be apt to take in this trenchant sophistication at a club with a libation in hand.

The creation of silver-haired performer Tony Tanner, the show strongly suggests another current revue about discoveries after 30, "Bittersuite: Songs of Experience," at the Back Alley." Tanner, who wrote the music and lyrics, mixes funny two-character sketches into the 25 numbers, and his material enjoys a certain Dorothy Parker kind of tartness.

The hottest number is the country and Western-garbed B. J. Ward knocking out the vicissitudes of "Timing." Mitch Kreindel carries over his pained "Kvetch" character from the Odyssey in a hilarious sketch of a middle-age husband gathering the nerve to ask his best friend for the hand of his teen-age daughter.

The attractive, satiric Patti Karr nails a range of targets, from unhappy wives ("I'm Getting Unmarried") to shrinks to a lesbian matron writing Christmas cards, in a quietly touching scene with Ward. Tanner's forays into "Guilt," "Grandpa" and "I Want the Piano" speak for themselves.

Live drums, keyboard and bass under the zesty musical direction of Mari Falcone contribute to this effortless collage of what it's like to hit 40-plus and have to come of age. For example, in "First Date," Ward and Kreindel have to get with dating all over again. The fear of commitment and desperation has the slap of recognition.

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