Simi Valley's feisty and peripatetic little Stage and Video Educational Theatre (S.A.V.E.) company has performed in a courthouse and in a school auditorium, among other venues. Today, it's teaming up with the local Tony Roma's restaurant for a series of dinner theater shows in an upstairs banquet room. The current offering, two new one-act dramas, continues for the next three Friday nights.
It's a rare opportunity to eat dinner and then watch two other sets of people eating theirs. " 'Twas the Night Before College" and "Call Me Kate" by local playwright Kathleen O'Day, directed by David Newcomer, are both conversations occurring during a meal. In each, a young adult engages in verbal interplay with his or her mother, somewhere in suburban Los Angeles.
The better of the plays, "Kate" finds 24-year-old actress Katherine Harris taking her mother to lunch. But it's no treat; mother and daughter never did share values, and don't here. Mother (played by Raye Dennis) is second-generation wealthy and quite conservative, and Katherine (Staci Beltram) is . . . well, an actress. Mother never did approve of such things.
Katherine takes every opportunity to embarrass her mother, from flirting with the waiter (Shannon Collins) to making out-loud insults. Of course, they reach some sort of a truce, perhaps because--for all her uptightness--Mother gets several of the best lines.
The show opens with " 'Twas the Night Before College," wherein 19-year-old Patrick O'Brien (Jeremy Inman) has one last dinner with his divorced mother (Teresa Rowlee) before he moves to college and his own apartment. It seems to be the first time these two have spoken at any length in Patrick's entire life.
Patrick doesn't have much to say, and does so at great length. He and his mother refer to each other as Mom (or Ma) and Son, numerous times, perhaps so the audience won't be confused as to who is who.
From time to time, Patrick also addresses his mother as "woman," which might be taken as a sign of his heightened sexual awareness.
Mom, on the other hand, is trying very hard to deal with her son as an adult; offering him a glass of wine at dinner seems to be a major step for her.
Acting in both plays is uniformly adequate, with Raye Dennis coming out a shade ahead of the others, perhaps, thanks to the touch of dignity she brings to her character.
There are "original music" and "sound design" credits on the show's program, puzzling in light of the seeming absence of music and the total lack of sound design--unless the credited parties are responsible for the loud karaoke bar downstairs.
Dinner itself varies from performance to performance as the Tony Roma's management tries to discover what satisfies customers most. The $20 admission includes Tony Roma's choice of entree, a smattering of vegetables, a dollop of sherbet, plus soft drinks, tax and tip. A full cash bar also is available.
* WHERE AND WHEN
The S.A.V.E. Theatre production of " 'Twas the Night Before College" and "Call Me Kate" continue Friday and Oct. 18 and 25 at Tony Roma's, 2525 Stow St., Simi Valley. Dinner is served at 7:30 p.m.; the show begins at 8:30. Admission and the table d'hote dinner are $20 per person, with reservations necessary. Call (805) 527-8896 for reservations, which are mandatory, or for information.