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STAGE REVIEW : Armenian Troupe Tries a New Tongue


The promising English-language debut of an Armenian-American acting troupe has added another cultural filament to ethnic theater in L.A.

The Ardavatz Theatre Company, named after an Armenian king who wrote plays and championed the arts in 1st-Century B. C. Armenia, has been producing plays locally, in Armenian, since 1979. In a move to reach out to its English-speaking neighbors, the group is staging "Three Acts of Love," two- and three-character, one-act comedies about the vagaries of love, at the Whitefire Theatre in Sherman Oaks.

Aptly enough, the focus of this coming-out party deals with foreigners who are caught up in the throes of cultural adjustments. One actor, Buck Kartalian, plays a Jew in Murray Schisgal's "The Pushcart Peddlers," a Frenchman in Georges Feydeau's "Wooed and Viewed" and an Armenian immigrant in Edward Ash's "Man's Best Friend."

Kartalian is quite at home portraying immigrant characters in America but much too hammy and vaudevillian as an aristocratic Frenchman in the Feydeau parlor farce. The piece is salvaged by Magda Harout, uproarious as a woman who urges her befuddled neighbor to make love to her as revenge against a jealous husband.

Almost as busy as Kartalian is Ardavatz artistic director Krikor Satamian, who co-stars in two of the plays in tender, meek, loving characterizations that register the evening's most distinctive work.

In a way, Peter Manoogian, a filmmaker directing his first stage play, turns the low-key Satamian and the theatrical, strong-willed Kartalian into a kind of immigrant Laurel and Hardy team.

The opening "Pushcart Peddlers" is hardly more than a sly sketch about a pair of newcomers just off the boat.

But it's the closing play, "A Man's Best Friend," that really reveals the company's promise, with Kartalian and Satamian sensitively dramatizing the emotional bond between two old Armenians on their last walk together. In a nice touch flecked with mime, the title character is literally a pet dog, unseen but always present.


Play: "Three Acts of Love."

Location: Whitefire Theatre, 13500 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks.

Hours: 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday and 6 p.m. Sunday, through July 12.

Tickets: $15.

Running Time: 2 hours .

Call: (213) 660-TKTS.

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