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THEATER REVIEW / 'DIRTY WORK' : Age Appeal : The parody quotient of this melodramatic romp is doubled by its casting: Mature adults play parts written for youngsters.

March 18, 1993|TODD EVERETT | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Under any circumstances, Bill Johnson's "Dirty Work at the Crossroads" would be considered a parody of turn-of-the-century melodramas. When the cast consists of a large and enthusiastic group of seniors, the play is a special hoot, the better part of its risibility intentional.

"Dirty Work" closes Sunday at the Plaza Players Theater in Ventura, presented by the Senior Drama Troupe of the Ventura Department of Parks and Recreation.

Johnson's script, adapted by director Robert E. (Doc) Reynolds, is funny enough: Intent on selling to the railroad some land that isn't yet his, villainous Munro Murgatroyd eliminates the Widow Lovelace and attempts to seduce her daughter, Nellie. When that doesn't work, he sets his sights on Leonie, daughter of the fabulously wealthy Mrs. Upton Asterbilt. Complications ensue until virtue narrowly triumphs.

As one might expect, the funniest aspect of this production (and what, in addition to economical production values, sets it apart from the Moorpark Melodrama) is the casting of folks well over 30 in parts designed for youngsters: among them, Cherie Allen as Nellie Lovelace, Rose Habib as Leonie Asterbilt, and Rose Guerrini as the daughter of Nell and handsome Adam Oakhart (George Snyder). Taking the unconventional casting one step further, the part of naive country lad Mookie Maguggins is played (and quite convincingly) by a woman, Alice Dahling.

While the cast doesn't share an inordinately high standard of thespian ability (not that it's required, or even preferable), David Nankivell is outstanding as Murgatroyd.

Dr. Jimm Chiles narrates, and James Raysor tickles the ivories on a number of period tunes before and during the show.

Last Saturday's audience consisted almost entirely of seniors, but it's likely that youngsters would enjoy the melodrama as well--but be advised that three acts and more than two hours is a bit long on the attention span.

* WHERE AND WHEN

"Dirty Work at the Crossroads" concludes this weekend at the Plaza Players Theater, 34 N. Palm St., Ventura. Shows are at 1 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays; all tickets are $3. Call 648-3035.

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