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'Alice' at City Theatre; 'Female' at Waterfront; 'One-Act Festival' at Theatre 40; 'American Buffalo' at Tiffany; 'Trumps' at Burbage

January 19, 1990|ROBERT KOEHLER

The musical revue form has fairly played itself out, stunted by its usually clunky, grab-bag nature and made worse by the genre's identity problem. What are we dealing with here--a musical, a comedy, a series of skits?

That doesn't mean I've never liked a revue. "A . . . My Name Is Alice," the revue-child of Joan Micklin Silver and Julianne Boyd, is more likable than not at International City Theatre. For the most part, it also vaporizes in your head the second you leave the theater.

A few moments from this evening of comic female laments and melancholic female feelings have some staying power. Most of them belong to Mary Bond Davis, who leads director Peter Grego's quintet of actresses by dint of sheer bravura and a swaggering, drop-dead stage presence. She sizzles up the banalities of "Pay Them No Mind," cooks up a funny scene about a woman's basketball team, and fries her shrink in "Honeypot," a nifty lampoon of therapy-speak.

Davis' companions--Myronna DeLaney, Stephanie Pope, Stacy Shaffer and Carol Woodbury--remember the first rule of revue performance: Be in the moment. They also believe in the material, so that whatever value "Alice" has is not as a proto-feminist pastiche, but as a display of the honest show-biz values of real hoofers.

At Harvey Way and Clark Street, Long Beach City College, Fridays and Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 and 7:30 p.m. (no matinee Jan. 14), through Feb. 4. Tickets: $10; (213) 420-4275.

'Female Parts'

While "Alice" issues rather flabby, liberal feminism, Franca Rame's and Dario Fo's "Female Parts" is comparatively a militant jeremiad against patriarchy.

At the same time, "Female Parts" has as sure a sense of itself as a show as any Off-Broadway revue. Frederique Michel's production at Waterfront Stage navigates the wacky seas of Rame/Fo only fitfully, partly because of a certain lack of abandon that comes from not mastering the Italian couple's peculiar style of political burlesque. That's not so unheard of though: Ron Sossi's current Odyssey Theatre staging of Fo's "Accidental Death of an Anarchist" falls as short, for the same reasons.

Interestingly, both shows have the same strength: the saving grace of an actor fully in tune with the Fo/Rame style. In "Anarchist," it's Orson Bean as the hoodwinking Maniac. In "Female Parts," it's Terri Mussatti as the girl/woman in the second piece, "The Same Old Story."

The blissfully theatrical journey takes Mussatti from a bed where she finds herself trapped by her boyfriend's sexual whims to a bed where she tells her baby (a small stuffed doll) a scatological bedtime story on the struggle toward independence. Mussatti maintains a sober stance toward the outrageous narrative inventions which Fo and Rame throw into the pot like insanely confident chefs. Her blurring of the girl/woman is aided by an exuberance that keeps us at attention.

"Same Old Story" doesn't feel old at all, but the opening piece, "A Woman Alone," isn't standing the test of time. Rafaella Commitante's housewife, beleaguered by an incarcerating husband, an obnoxious crippled relative, a screaming baby, a stubborn lover and a peeping Tom, is oddly unsympathetic. Commitante can't keep us from seeing how ludicrous the situation is, although fans of Jerry Lewis, for whom nothing is too ridiculous, might enjoy this madhouse.

At 250 Santa Monica Pier, Thursdays and Fridays, 8 p.m., until Feb. 2. Tickets: $10; (213) 393-6672.

'One-Act Festival'

When are one-acts more like short stories than micro-plays? Two of the three one-acts on the second bill of Theatre 40's One-Act Festival provide some clues.

For all their differences, Martin Epstein's "Mysteries of the Bridal Night" and Horton Foote's "The One-Armed Man" compress lives into the briefest patches of time and let the characters drive the stories. Both speculate on the absurdities of human mortality. Epstein's wedding couple (Christina Carlisi and J. Downing) allow a casket with a ringing bell attached--is someone alive in there?--to trigger a panicky review of their shared life. Brian Nelson directs Carlisi and Downing as adult innocents, teen-age-like in their emotional drifts.

Foote's cotton mill boss (Bill Erwin) takes into account everything in his life but the lethal needs of a one-armed former worker (Dino Shorte). Joe Dahman, Erwin's lackey, is the man in the middle of a crazy moment on life's edge, all supercharged under Lorenzo DeStefano's direction.

The melodramatic "Clandestine at the Crystal," by Giovanna and Charles Knox Robinson, isn't remotely in the same league. This wan memory play about old lovers' regrets uses the hackneyed device of having us see the couple now and, simultaneously, as they were. Director Amy Glazer undercuts the device; she hasn't cast carefully enough for a young-old resemblance. Dull stuff, with or without the "Twilight Zone" ending.

At 241 Moreno Dr., Beverly Hills High School, Thursdays through Saturdays, 8 p.m., until Jan. 27. Tickets: $10; (213) 466-1767.

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