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THEATER REVIEW / 'ENCHANTED LAKE' : Telling Tales : Cal Lutheran's bilingual production illustrates Mexican folklore for a largely non-Spanish-speaking young audience.

March 04, 1993|TODD EVERETT | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Given an endowment to produce a bilingual play for children, the drama department of Cal Lutheran University didn't opt for English and Norwegian. Instead, they're aiming for Ventura County's Spanish-speaking community and have created "The Enchanted Lake," using both the English and Spanish languages.

The production's honorable intentions notwithstanding, a person speaking only Spanish is less likely to understand what's going on than someone who only speaks English--though one needn't know much more Spanish here to enjoy "The Enchanted Lake" than it takes to order lunch at Taco Bell.

Director Ken Gardner's usual procedure is to alternate the same phrase or substance thereof in both languages; but there are stretches where no Spanish is spoken. The main value of this play may be as an introduction of elements of Latino culture to its youthful Anglo audience.

Written by uncredited Cal Lutheran students, the play is an adaptation from Mexican folklore, akin to works that Ojai's Illusions company does each year with Chumash Indian tales.

Xochi (pronounced "Chachi") is an Aztec girl who for various reasons sets off for the Enchanted Lake to bring back some water to heal the ailing Empress. Along for the trip are her mule, Mulito, and a brightly-plumed bird, Quetzal, both of whom are capable of speaking to her. In Spanish. Or English.

Xochi and her troupe face various obstacles along the way, and there's a happy ending. The whole thing only took about 40 minutes last Sunday afternoon, making it suitable for fairly young children, and enjoyable for their parents.

There's a lot to like in that 40 minutes, though, including much slapstick humor, some brightly-colored costumes designed by Jen Davis and Shaun Travers, and a wonderfully inventive stage set, designed by Mike Roehr.

At various times, members of the cast run into the audience, interacting with the kids without singling out any who might be embarrassed by the spotlight.

Director Gardner has assembled two casts; the one seen last Sunday included Michelle Tubbs as Xochi, Tricia Marsacas as the mule, and Lisa Weisenberger as the bird. All are Cal Lutheran students, and some of them are obviously not Latino. Their enthusiasm, though, can't be denied.

After the show, members of the cast, in costume, meet and talk with members of the audience; a nice touch.

* WHERE AND WHEN

"The Enchanted Lake" will be performed for the public at 1 p.m. Saturday at Moorpark Community Center, 799 Moorpark Ave. Sunday at 1 and 3 p.m. Sunday at the Preuss-Brandt Forum of Cal Lutheran University, 60 W. Olsen Road in Thousand Oaks (enter on Campus Drive, then turn left on Chapel to the library), and at 3:15 p.m. Monday at Maple Elementary School in Newbury Park. All tickets are $3. In addition, there are a number of private performances scheduled throughout Ventura County. For further information, call 492-1474.

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