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ENTERTAINMENT : 'Twice Around' Is TV-Thin Both Times

March 03, 1994|T.H. McCULLOH | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

As time goes on, the two one-act sitcoms that make up playwright Murray Schisgal's "Twice Around the Park" look more and more as though they belong on television. Indeed, avid TV watchers should get a big kick out of them. But they're one-joke pieces, way too thin to sustain an evening of theater.

At the Long Beach Studio, director J.D. Reichelderfer milks all the laughs Schisgal has provided.

In "A Need for Brussels Sprouts," out-of-work actor Leon Rose is practicing his lip-syncing of an operatic aria for an upcoming commercial audition. When his screeching gets too loud, there's a violent banging on his door, announcing the arrival of Margaret Heinz, a police officer ready to write him a ticket for noise pollution. Of course, Margaret is--in accordance with sitcom rules--also the upstairs tenant. Anger is subdued, the two discover they're both recovering from disastrous marriages, and Cupid flies over, leaving his calling card.

In "A Need for Less Expertise," Gus and Edie Frazier attempt to follow an ersatz Eastern audiotape detailing exercises and rituals to help them realize the fullness of their marriage which, after 26 years, is faltering. The dialogue is right out of "The Bickersons" and the couple's eventual compatibility is brought about in as silly and pat a manner as is Leon Rose's with his upstairs neighbor.

Even the estimable Holgie Forrester, as both Margaret and Edie, can't keep it all from looking as if there should be a commercial between the two episodes. Unfortunately, in an effort to save the day, she stoops to mugging and vocal tricks. Roger Galloway--fluffy-haired and bug-eyed as Leon, and plastered-down, mustached and puckered as Gus--depends even more on mugging to punctuate the laughs. When he forgets the gimmicks, he can be very funny. Both actors look as though they're filling time between more interesting projects.

Even the lighting operator seemed, at the performance reviewed, to be dreaming of better things to come--switching the house lights off, then turning the stage work lights on along with the stage lighting, turning off the stage lighting, then turning off the work lights, then turning the house lights back on, causing one member of the audience to ask, "Is it intermission already?"

Or maybe that was just Reichelderfer's attempt to breathe another laugh into a shallow evening.

* "Twice Around the Park," Studio Theatre, Long Beach Playhouse, 5021 E. Anaheim St., Long Beach. Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. through March 19, Sunday March 6 at 2 p.m. $10. (310) 494-1616. Running time: 1 hours, 50 minutes.

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