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THEATER BEAT : 'Cinders': Prison Tale of Power and Evil

April 02, 1993

"Cinders," at the Open Fist Theatre, might have been just another women-behind-bars drama. But Polish playwright Janusz Glowacki used the fable of Cinderella as an ersatz play-within-a-play, and included a television unit sent to investigate rumors of abuse and violence in the prison.

What he has made is a parable about power, on several levels, and the evil it can breed. There is a power tilt among the prisoners, between the new Principal of the facility and her Deputy, and between the Television Director and everyone else. All the baddies win, just as in real life.

Director Ziad Hamzeh knows this territory and has created a visually impressive staging that has moments of strength and humor and dollops of insight along the way. Chris DiLeo and Juan Valdivia's setting is as cold and grungy as it should be, especially under Bill Lackemacher's intricate lighting design.

Tommy Burruss as the Director seems a bit unfocused, but he has an intensity that is effective. The other central figures whose performances stand out are Dalene Young's fragile lesbian Principal, who is completely unfit to fit in; Dean Yacalis' sleazy Deputy; Sherri Stone Butler's naive and tender Cinderella, and Patty Gliniewicz as the tough, blustering Prince.

Sandi Lee Milne is also notable as Cinderella's smarmy stepfather, but even more so for her fine original music that accompanies this lucid staging.

* "Cinders," Open Fist Theatre, 1625 N. La Brea Ave., Hollywood. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; call for Sun. schedule. Indefinitely. $12-$15; (213) 882-6912. Running time: 2 hours.

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