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Stage Beat

'Gypsy' in San Gabriel; 'Changes' at Theatre of Arts; 'Mariana Pineda' at Bilingual Foundation of Arts; 'Wonder of the World' at Second Stage

October 21, 1988|ROBERT KOEHLER

It showed how thoroughly Dodgermania had spread when two women, sitting in the San Gabriel Civic Auditorium last Sunday, spent the last minutes before the curtain rose on "Gypsy" by watching the World Series on their micro TV.

How could the San Gabriel Valley Civic Light Opera's "Gypsy" top the Dodgers?

Try Jo Anne Worley as Rose. Then, for good measure, add Lauren Hathaway as Louise/Gypsy. Even with a dog-eared, bus-and-truck set (care of the San Bernardino Civic Light Opera) and a tired, raw-voiced Roger Perry as Herbie, this is a "Gypsy" that serves up genuine warmth like Orel Hershiser serves up sinker balls.

Now Worley isn't going to make anyone forget Ethel Merman or Rosalind Russell, but she has all the keys for getting inside Rose. The optimism (effortless at first, then hard-earned). The monkey on her back. The demonic determination to make her kids stars, while convincing us that she loves them.

That's what makes "Gypsy" such a heart-wrenching show. Because Rose couldn't get her own show-biz act together, she does it through her daughters, Louise and June (Sherri Bannister). The wonder of Arthur Laurents' book is how we accept it when the kids turn out fine. June's departure is an act of sanity, and Louise's evolution into Gypsy Rose Lee is an act of keen survival.

Once M. Roger Lockie's orchestra gets over a stumbling overture, they help make this a very listenable "Gypsy," with Worley's, Hathaway's and Bannister's voices supporting the Jule Styne/Stephen Sondheim score at full strength. Bill Shaw's direction is detail-oriented, down to making sure that every child performer has the charm Rose would demand.

At 320 S. Mission Drive, San Gabriel; Thursdays and Fridays, 8:15 p.m.; Saturdays, 2:15 and 8:15 p.m. ; Sundays, 2:15 p.m. ; this Sunday at 7:15 p.m. Ends Oct. 30. Tickets: $12-$22; (818) 308-2868.

'Subtle, Tragic and Domestic Changes'

Any play with a title like "Subtle, Tragic and Domestic Changes" has an uphill battle on its hands. It's also, in this case, a misleading indicator of the play. J. D. Hall's three-act depiction of a black married couple's inability to handle the wife's new-found liberation is more comic than tragic.

The alternate cast last Sunday afternoon at Theatre of Arts had clearly thought about the play with director Roger E. Mosley, but no one had yet figured out how to transcend Hall's sitcom framework. For all the extended exposition involving Jennifer's (Alva Chinn) success in the ad world and husband Henry's (Melvin Howard Taylor) shift from support to alienation, the character changes seem as fast-forwarded as a show in prime-time.

Hall has found no solution to Jennifer's unbelievably sudden Jekyll-Hyde transformation from a loving wife to a callous corporate overachiever; neither have Mosley and Chinn. The supporting cast's horseplay around the edges of these domestic changes is only a mild distraction from a play with real problems.

At 4128 Wilshire Blvd., Fridays and Saturdays, 8 p.m., Sundays, 3 and 7 p.m., until Nov. 6. Tickets: $10; (213) 466-1767.

Mariana Pineda

The Bilingual Foundation of the Arts has been making the exposure of Federico Garcia Lorca's plays something of a mission in recent years. Perhaps the most lasting result of this project has been the Michael Dewell-Carmen Zapata translations--five of them, currently or soon-to-be published, including the new "Mariana Pineda." Though they can't be said to achieve the powerful sonority of Richard Wilbur's translations of Moliere, they are, like the Wilbur work, in verse and resonant with the original language.

Unlike Wilbur's verse, though, Dewell-Zapata's Lorca is very hard to make play well. Perhaps any English Lorca is, which is why it's good that Margarita Galban's production of "Pineda" alternates in Spanish. Her English cast appears truly daunted by the text and story context, which is based on the anti-royalty actions of the real Pineda in Granada, 1831.

Miscastings abound: Margarita Stocker's gray wig and heavy makeup show her age; Roxanna Cordova-Soto's weak voice cannot be heard above Ian Krouse's recorded--and lovely--guitar and piano score; and while Alison England's voice is opera-quality (a rarity in any theater), her Mariana is full of emotional bluster without passionate content.

A cast this thin turns what should play as a tragedy into pure melodrama, since the ultimate sacrifices Mariana makes for her Pedro (Alex Sellar) are never clearly dramatized as a serious misunderstanding between lovers. Lorca's irony simply doesn't register.

Strange, this inattention on the production side (including Estela Scarlata's drab set), since Galban ambitiously adapted Lorca's original three-act down to two, eliminated lots of business with children and nuns, created several musical scenes with the women and tried to connect the events with the 1936 Spanish Civil War--a device that isn't bold enough to be worthwhile.

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