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SUMMER CHILLS : Golden West College Presents Its Third Annual MysteryFest

June 25, 1992|M.E. WARREN | M.E. Warren is a free-lance writer who regularly covers theater for The Times Orange County Edition.

Like many other schools, Golden West College has had a summer theater for years, since 1982 to be exact. But two seasons ago, something happened that transformed GWC's run-of-the-mill stock company into the Summer MysteryFest.

On the 100th anniversary of Agatha Christie's birth, GWC decided to commemorate the great Dame of mystery writing by dedicating its summer season solely to her works. The results were so successful that the formula has been revived for a third time this year: MysteryFest '92 opened last weekend with Ayn Rand's courtroom drama, "The Night of January 16th."

The audience is cast as the jury in Rand's play, in which Karen Andre is tried for the murder of her employer and lover, Bjorn Faulkner. Cards are handed out as the audience is seated, and after the testimonies are completed, the audience votes by show of card: the white side for innocence and the black side for guilt. On opening night, one enthusiastic patron carded his verdict shortly after taking his seat. One good look at the defendant, and his mind was made up.

GWC always has tried to get the audience involved in solving the onstage crimes, enclosing vote-for-the-villian sheets in the programs and offering prizes for the first correct deduction. It's a bit of extra fun that seems to be part of the charm that entices audiences back year after year.

This season, three full productions are being offered, two outside in the Patio Theatre and another in campus' Mainstage Theatre. In addition to Ayn Rand, GWC once again will be tapping its main muse, Dame Christie, with productions of "The Verdict" outdoors and "Witness for the Prosecution" inside. (See box for specific show dates and times.)

Performers are culled from GWC acting classes, with some community thespians participating as well. Twenty paid professionals, directors and designers, round out the company.

And come fall, the Patio Theatre will just be a patio again, with sweater-clad students crisscrossing on their way between classes. The MysteryFest will have disappeared . . . mysteriously.

What: The Golden West Summer MysteryFest.

When: Through July 19. See box for schedule.

Where: Golden West College, 15744 Golden West St., Huntington Beach.

Whereabouts: San Diego (405) Freeway to the Golden West Street exit. Head south.

Wherewithal: $8 to $10 per performance.

Where to call: (714) 895-8378.

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