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Party Staged for Playhouse Was a Smash Hit

July 20, 1989|David Nelson

LA JOLLA — Charmaine Kaplan breathed more easily Monday thanks to a sedentary impulse on the part of Vice President Dan Quayle, who arrived in San Diego earlier that day and decided to have an early supper at the University Club with his wife, Marilyn, and then spend a quiet evening at his hotel with the kids.

Kaplan said she had been a tad worried that local Republicans might feel moved to entertain Quayle in high style that night, which might have siphoned off more than a few of the guests at her "Monday Night Live" gala for La Jolla Playhouse.

"I'm glad he's a family man," she said. "As it is, we're sold out anyway. We couldn't fit in another table or even another person if we wanted to." The attendance totaled 320, a figure a good bit higher than at any other Playhouse fund-raiser in recent years.

Monday usually is a treasured night off on the fund-raising circuit, but was chosen since it also is the theater's "dark" night, an occasion that freed back-stage technicians as well as performers to join in the cabaret headlined by comedian Robert Klein. Playhouse artistic director Des McAnuff said he liked the date for several reasons, including the fact that the gala came in the middle of the theater's performance schedule.

'Sold to the Rafters'

"This is the first time we've done a soiree during our season," he said. "We're sold to the rafters, so it looks like San Diego loves to party on a Monday night."

That part of San Diego in attendance certainly gave every evidence of a partiality to partying on the first day of the work week. The gala's underlying motif was that of a summer garden party, and the cocktail hour percolated on the lawns next to the Stonehenge-like "La Jolla Project" sculpture garden on the UC-San Diego campus. The dinner and show were given under a clear plastic tent, and the scene looked like nothing so much as a nightclub under the stars, a semi-alfresco Stork Club in which towering Lucite epergnes held fragile orchid bouquets suspended in mid-air.

Caterer John Baylin served a Southwestern-style "quilted" salad and chicken in jalapeno cream sauce as a kind of intermezzo between the reception and the program. As guests snapped up the chocolate terrine that finished the meal, McAnuff took the stage to congratulate the audience on its support of his theater.

"The existence of La Jolla Playhouse is a miracle," he said. "The '80s have not been a decade conducive to the creation of new arts institutions. Even though we bring artists from around the world, the La Jolla Playhouse exists only because of the support of the San Diego community."

McAnuff then introduced an octet of major benefactors, including Dorothy Johnston, Roger and Ellen Revelle, Sally and John Thornton, Ed Herman, David Copley and philanthropist Mandell Weiss, for whom the theater center is named. Weiss, who is 98, provoked chuckles when he climbed the stage to say: "I want to welcome you to 'Monday Night Live.' I like the word 'live!"'

Lively Entertainment

A full chorus line of performers from previous Playhouse productions took turns on stage during the cabaret, including Leilani Jones of "Shout Up a Morning," who offered up "Sophisticated Swank" and other top titles from the cafe society hit parade, and Stephen Bogardus of "80 Days," who ran up and down the register while swinging through Sondheim's "Anyone Can Whistle."

Comedian Klein, who styled himself as the ultimate New Yorker but seemed to be pleased to be out of town, opened his act by informing the crowd that it was his first experience performing beneath a "plastic circus tent." "It was like the greenhouse effect during rehearsals, but at least they got the elephant smell out," he teased.

Klein kept up the same tone through his act and concluded with a witty song--sung in surprisingly good voice--about the joys of airplane travel. He concluded just in time for guests to snatch up the calculator key chain and Tiffany perfume souvenirs and head home, where they opened their front doors just in time to be greeted by Tuesday morning.

Co-chair Kaplan ran the show in the absence of general chairman Peggy Preuss, who was in Europe; the committee also included Liz Smith, Martha Chatelain, Rita Bronowski, Barbara Bry, Bea Epsten, Anne Otterson and Pam Allison.

Among the guests were Joan and Irwin Jacobs, Colette and Ivor Royston, Arthur and Sandy Levinson, Mary Moeller and Floyd Andrews, Marie and Merrel Olesen, Geri and Joseph Kennedy, Carol and Mark Yorston, Liz and Mason Phelps, Susanne Angelucci, Martha and George Gafford, Rita Rae Gittes, Eileen and Willard VanderLaan, B. J. and Hal Williams, and Dagmar and Steve Brezzo.

UCSD Chancellor Richard Atkinson held out a glad hand Saturday to about 380 members of his Chancellor's Associates support group and of the university's Board of Overseers.

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