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THEATER REVIEW NEW VOICES : Funny to Weird : Two one-act plays in Thousand Oaks represent a fine start for a Performing Artists Guild program.

December 12, 1991|TODD EVERETT | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

While Christmas themes seem to dominate local theater these days, at least one company is offering something different and worthwhile.

The Performing Artists Guild in Thousand Oaks has chosen this month to launch a program called New Voices, dedicated to original work.

At the moment, "original work" means two one-act plays. One has been around a bit, if not in Ventura County; the other is evidently receiving its world premiere.

The debut, "Quadruped," is by a well-known writer; the other, "Killing Miss America," is by a team of relative novices.

Both tackle unusual subjects. "Killing Miss America," imaginatively directed by Irene Silbert, finds radical feminists infiltrating a pageant to expose (gasp!) the superficiality of such events.

The protagonists of "Quadruped," directed by Steve Wiley, are middle-aged twin brothers with an extraordinary attachment to one another.

Never quite the feminist tract it threatens to be, "Killing Miss America" takes a couple of unusual plot twists and gives both sides of the subject their due. It's also very funny, and gives the audience something to discuss on the way home.

While easy enough to follow and occasionally amusing, "Quadruped"--laced with symbolism about as obvious as that on a typical episode of "Star Trek"--is just plain weird.

And that quality might generate some discussion in its own right.

R. Wright Campbell, author of "Quadruped," is better known as Robert W. Campbell, a distinguished screenwriter (the 1957 Lon Chaney picture "Man of a Thousand Faces" was his work) who is best known these days for two series of detective novels.

A contemporary fantasy, "Quadruped" features brothers Malcolm and Michael, forced to live together, who bicker like a long-married couple. Hartley Kern plays the surly, lusty Malcolm; Sergio Bertolli is the more sensitive, compassionate Michael. Together, they offer all the qualities a woman is looking for.

Well, one woman, at least--a childhood friend portrayed by perky Jill Macy.

The authors of "Killing Miss America," Jennie Webb and Brent Morris, are a largely unknown team who met at a dramatic workshop in Los Angeles; "Killing Miss America" has been produced twice in L.A. theaters.

In all, the two complementary one-act shows are a fine start for the New Voices program, and generate high expectations for what might come next.

* WHERE AND WHEN

"Killing Miss America" and "Quadruped" continue Friday and Saturday nights at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 7 through Dec. 22 at the Arts Council Center, 482 Greenmeadow Road, Thousand Oaks. General admission tickets are $9 for adults; $6 for students and seniors. Reservations are advised; the theater is quite small. Call 499-4659.

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