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THEATER REVIEW : Replaying the '60s : Revue is a refreshing trip back to see how a different time treated its traumas.

August 27, 1993|T. H. McCULLOH | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

To a current generation that sometimes seems to think that nostalgia was what they had for breakfast day before yesterday, glancing back through previous decades could be illuminating.

Gene Casey and Dick Woody's revue, "Sock It to the '60s," at Woodland Hills' Center Stage, provides something for today's twenty-somethings to chew on. Bell-bottoms are back in, '60s pop groups are putting out boxed CD sets, and this energetic little revue is a reminder that 30 years ago, it was a little easier to laugh at the world's woes.

All of the songs in the revue were written during the late '50s and the '60s, giving it an authentic ring. The subject matter of the material, from JFK ("The Youngest President" and "The Jackie Look") to Tricky Dick's new look ("The Sixty-Eight Nixon") is relevant to its time, sharp in focus and usually gentle in its satire.

And it all still works. If some of the references are obscure to anyone younger than 40, there are enough recognizable names, and enough full-throttle humor, to make the production's point, and the point is twofold. First, that things haven't changed that much. Second, that the club revue form, long gone in this day of stand-up comedy, was--and could again be--a viable forum for parody, satire and political comment. It's a refreshing trip back to see how a different time treated its traumas.

Casey, who began writing for theater in the revue form in the late '50s, wrote some of the songs in this re-creation. The balance of them are by others closely associated with those revues, including Jerry Herman. The show looks as though it might have stepped off the stage of New York's Upstairs at the Downstairs or Blue Angel. It's intimate, tightly directed by Woody and as fast-moving as Casey's musical direction can make it. Dale Phillips' stylish piano accompaniment is a strong ingredient.

The cast also knows the territory and has the versatility to keep each number looking fresh and impudent. From Kelly Britt's very funny take on opera's Maria Callas in Herman's "Maria in Spats" to Therese Walden's equally humorous Joan Baez in "The Ballad of Hippie Lou" to Barbara Niles' outrageous sendup of Mama Cass in "The Guru," the aim is true and the kidding gentle.

Lloyd Pedersen's Gov. George Wallace in "Lurleen and George" is notable, with clever assistance by Britt as Lurleen Wallace, the wife who became governor. Jay Willick scores as "Bobby the K.," whose brother Teddy might be veep when Bobby runs for president, and with Lloyd gets laughs as members of "The Ku Klux Klan." The latter number, along with much of the material, is a bittersweet reminder of an earlier naivete.

Where and When What: "Sock It to the '60s." Location: Center Stage (at the Enchanted Forest), 20929 Ventura Blvd., Woodland Hills. Hours: 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 7 p.m. Sundays. Indefinitely. Price: $15. Call: (818) 509-9376.

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