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THEATER REVIEWS : Shaky Celebration of Day the World Began

April 23, 1993|DON SHIRLEY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Suzanne Lummis' "October 22, 4004 B.C., Saturday," one of the delights of 1987, doesn't shimmer nearly as brightly in its 1993 reincarnation at the same theater, the Cast.

A witty stream of words for a sextet of resolutely artificial characters, the comedy requires an ultra-smooth ensemble and a very light touch. In this staging, laughter bubbles here and there, but sometimes the lines just sink into the stage.

Once again, Jennifer (Adrienne Stout) is throwing her annual party to celebrate the world's birthday. She has followed the lead of an archbishop who long ago decided that October 22, 4004 BC was the date when it all began. Everyone knows better now, of course, but Jennifer appreciates the archbishop's stab at precision in a frequently imprecise world.

First we see the three women playing cards and speculating about the men. Then we see the men playing bumper pool and speculating about the women. Then the women make a momentous announcement, which leads to a series of brittle exchanges between the mates. The writing teeters between the styles of Coward and Ionesco, but here the casting and staging lack the conviction that would make the play stand on its own.

This isn't too surprising; the director was changed a few days before opening night. The production began with Justin Tanner at the helm, and he brought in some of his Tanner Players--the informal band of actors who have appeared in many of his own plays at the Cast, including the currently running "Teen Girl" and "Zombie Attack." But Cast producer Diana Gibson is now credited as director. The key role of Lucy also was recast shortly before the opening.

Some of the performances might suffice under other circumstances, but the sense of ensemble that's usually so strong among the Tanner Players is missing. Stout pushes pushy Jennifer way over the top.

* "October 22, 4004 B.C., Saturday," Cast Theatre, 804 N. El Centro Ave., Hollywood. Fridays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Ends May 30. $15. (213) 462-0265. Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes.

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