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'Kvetch' Can't Complain as Long Odyssey Run Winds Down

April 18, 1993|DON SHIRLEY

An L.A. without a "Kvetch"? It's true: Steven Berkoff's long-running comedy will close next Sunday, after more than seven years at the Odyssey.

It's "played out," said Odyssey artistic director Ron Sossi. For four years, it was a major revenue source for the theater, and it attracted a broad cross-section: older Jews, younger New Wave types, industry trendies, South Bay singles. Many were people who otherwise wouldn't go to the Odyssey or to any theater.

But "it's hard to keep something trendy after seven years," Sossi said. The numbers dropped, and the schedule was reduced to only two or three performances a week.

As the kvetching winds down (today and next Sunday at 4 p.m., Saturday at 10 p.m.), a couple of stories from the "Kvetch" years are leaking out.

There was the time when a group of Hasidic Jews were so offended by the play that they demanded their money back at intermission. When the box office manager said no, they lined up outside the theater and davened.

Jack Nicholson and Anjelica Huston were once so amused by the play that they sent a magnum of champagne to the cast, said Odyssey spokeswoman Lucy Pollak. But it sat in the backstage refrigerator for months because the cast--in typical "Kvetch" spirit--couldn't agree on when to open it.

PLACID PASADENA: Just in case you thought that "The Twilight of the Golds" might herald a new era at the Pasadena Playhouse, featuring provocative works by local playwrights, put that thought on hold.

The summer/fall season recently announced by the Playhouse is one of its safest seasons yet. First up is "A Tuna Christmas," the sequel to the popular "Greater Tuna," about funny folk in a small town. Then Larry Shue's "The Foreigner," another comedy set among funny folk in a rural America. And finally a new musical revue featuring old tunes, "Sweet, Smart, Rodgers & Hart."

People ask Playhouse executive director Lars Hansen why the theater doesn't do another "Twilight," he said, but such plays "don't grow on trees." Though the theater receives three to five scripts a day, "there is very little that shines. We try to respond to the local playwrights, but we have an audience we have to respond to; it's a delicate balancing act." Because the playhouse won't accept any further government subsidies, it can't take too many "big chances," he added.

At least "A Tuna Christmas" will be new to Southern California. It opened in San Francisco at an inopportune time--right after the big 1989 earthquake--and has since been touring the hinterlands.

"The Foreigner" was done at South Coast Repertory, the Theaterfest in Solvang and Santa Maria, and La Mirada Theatre during the '80s, but Hansen said the Playhouse audiences--in Pasadena, Poway and Santa Barbara--are distinctive enough to merit bringing it back.

As for the Rodgers & Hart revue, it's being assembled by Steven Suskin, a co-producer of "Forever Plaid," and will feature at least five obscure songs besides more familiar ones. Two were from the scores of films that were never made, and one was cut from the team's "A Connecticut Yankee" musical. "Sweet, Smart, Rodgers & Hart" is not to be confused (though it probably will be) with "Sweet and Hot," a Harold Arlen revue opening at La Jolla Playhouse in September.

QUOTABLE: A couple of the more memorable lines from the recent Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle award ceremony:

"It's so much harder to get up and accept this award than it is to get up and rip off your clothes and spit all over people"--John Fleck, accepting a creation/performance award for "A Snowball's Chance in Hell."

"We considered dropping a chandelier on each of our shows, but we can't afford the liability insurance"--James Bailey of the West Coast Ensemble, explaining how the company tries to entice young people into the theater, as he accepted the group's Margaret Harford Award.

'ANGELS' PULITZER, PART 2?: And the winner of next year's Pulitzer Prize for drama just might be . . . Tony Kushner for "Angels in America," part two.

This year's prize, announced last week, went only to part one, "Millennium Approaches," of the two-part epic. Part two, "Perestroika," was seen at the Mark Taper Forum along with the first part last fall, but Kushner is doing rewrites on it. So this year's Pulitzer jury considered only "Millennium."

"We would have been happy to give the prize to both parts," said Newsweek critic Jack Kroll, chairman of the drama prize jury. Four of the five jury members saw the entire production in L.A. "But we knew (Kushner) was still working" on part two. "In effect, it became a work in progress." Next fall, when "Perestroika" is to open in New York, "it may turn out that lo and behold, not much has changed. But it may turn out that a lot has changed."

So part two could be a candidate next year? Yes, said Kroll, though "believe me, we did not think of that." Of course next year's competition could be tougher--and next year's jury will be different.

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