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The Best Of O. C. : Critic's Choices : Kid Stuff

January 31, 1991|CORINNE FLOCKEN | Corinne Flocken is a free-lance writer who regularly covers Kid Stuff for The Times Orange County Edition.

If you've ever been involved with children's theater, you know how aggravating, exhausting and generally draining an experience it can be. Funds are short, the children's attention spans even shorter, and the end result is sometimes, well, less than sparkling.

Bearing this in mind, it's tough to define a children's troupe as the best or the worst in the county. One of the standouts, however, is the Irvine Valley College TheatreFaire for Children. Directed by Blake and Charlene Gould, TheatreFaire consistently produces some of the best family shows in the county. Last summer's "The Adventures of Harriet Handelman" was a special treat, followed by a romantic, swashbuckling staging of "Robin Hood." Also, keep an eye on the Fullerton Children's Repertory Theatre, a high-voltage troupe of junior high school performers whose production of "Hello, Dolly!" packed as much or more of a wallop than that of any grown-up troupe around.

That's not to say there isn't room for improvement. Take, for example, the American Children's Theatre. Despite generally enthusiastic casts and the best efforts of sometime director Dan Halkyad, ACT gets a double slap on the wrist for the worst venue and silliest gimmick. The 4-year-old troupe's generally entertaining, if sometimes uneven, shows are staged in the creaking Anaheim Cultural Arts Center . . . a facility that's hotter-than-you-know-where in the summer and hampered by an awkward auditorium-style layout. ACT would also do well to ditch its master of ceremonies, Buccaneer Dan, a chummy buffoon better suited to a preschooler's birthday party than to a theater.

Moving to the Great Outdoors, two local groups win kudos. Nursery Nature Walks, an organization headed by four local moms, gives guided tours of parklands to children as young as preschool age. For older children, the Friends of Newport Bay offers monthly public tours of the estuary.

Two of the best places to spend a rainy afternoon are Santa Ana's Discovery Museum of Orange County and the Children's Museum at La Habra.

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