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KID STUFF

HARRIET'S BACK : Theatrefaire Hatches Return of Egghead Heroine of Last Summer's 'Adventures'

July 04, 1991|CORINNE FLOCKEN | Corinne Flocken is a free-lance writer who regularly covers Kid Stuff for The Times Orange County Edition.

Slap a dress, some sensible shoes and 100 extra I.Q. points on Dudley Do-Right, and you have a rough description of Harriet Handleman.

Harriet, champion of innocents and all-around great gal, returns to Irvine this weekend in "The Further Adventures of Harriet Handleman," a children's play written and directed by Greg Atkins and produced by the Irvine Valley College Theatrefaire for Children. The show opens Friday in the IVC's Forum Theatre and continues through July 20.

Audiences met Harriet last summer in "The Everyday Adventures of Harriet Handleman," a boffo family show in which the likable egghead, equipped with an arsenal of crazy inventions and a taste for danger, braved untold perils in her pursuit of a sinister Shadowy Figure and still managed to get back in time for the school science fair.

"Harriet" was so well received that Atkins, who has written and directed three other Theatrefaire shows, has reunited Ms. H and her pals for yet another adventure. All of the original characters are here (played by the original cast), plus a few more: super-dweeb Leonard Digbee, Harriet's pesky little brother Hugo and Terry Alexander, the dreamy CIA agent who turns the levelheaded Harriet into Silly Putty.

Older (she's 11) and wiser, Harriet now tangles with the evil Darleen Thompson-Johnson-Garcia-Swartz-Raincloud-Yee-O'Malley, the much married queen of toxic waste. Head of mega-corp OWL (Ozone, Toxic Waste and Lard--the "T" is silent), Darleen needs Harriet to fix OWL's Invisibility Zone Entrance, a handy little gizmo that makes her company's muck invisible (her motto: "If you can't see it, you don't worry about it"), so she sends her henchman, Feeb, to kidnap Hugo. Assisted by "Rocketeer"-style jet packs and nitro-burning pogo sticks, Harriet and company begin a chase that takes them to Mt. Rushmore, Colorado's Mesa Verde cliff dwellings and a handful of other national monuments.

Bringing such large-scale adventures to the 25-foot community college stage has been something of a challenge, admitted Atkins.

"Greg's imagination and the realities of the physical world don't always coincide," he said, laughing. "But I think we've come up with some pretty clever ways to do things." Theatrefaire designers Brad Elsberry (sets), Gloria Moss (costumes), Eric Kerns (sound) and Chris Medvitz (lighting) worked with Atkins on both versions of "Harriet."

Polished production values and a balanced mix of classic children's stories and new works are key factors in Theatrefaire success, said Charlene Gould, who established the company in 1982 with her husband, Blake.

"It's always been Blake's feeling that we have to stretch our audience; you can't just do 'Pinocchio,' " said Gould.

Theatrefaire presents two family shows on the IVC campus each year, one in the intimate Forum Theatre (recently revamped to improve sightlines) and the other in the school's courtyard.

Last spring, the company's production of "The Beauty and the Beast" filled 90% of the seats during its run in the new Irvine Barclay Theatre. A second production there is scheduled for March of '92.

Blake Gould will direct Theatrefaire's second show of the season, "Tom Sawyer," which opens July 16 and continues through July 25.

What: "The Further Adventures of Harriet Handleman," by the Irvine Valley College Theatrefaire for Children.

When: Friday, July 5, through Saturday, July 20. (Recommended for ages 4 and up.)

Where: Forum Theatre at Irvine Valley College, 5500 Irvine Center Drive, Irvine.

Whereabouts: San Diego (405) Freeway to Jeffrey Street exit, turn left. College is on the corner of Jeffrey and Irvine Center Drive.

Wherewithal: $8 to $10.

Where to call: (714) 559-3333.

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