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THEATER REVIEW : Taking Comic Route to the South of 1861 : Angela Wayne Randazzo's 'Time for Murder' places a 1994 New Jersey couple into a Civil War-era imbroglio.


Take Al and Peg Bundy from TV's "Married . . . with Children" back in time to the Civil War-era South, and you've got an idea of the juxtaposition in "Time for Murder," a comedy by local playwright Angela Wayne Randazzo ending this weekend at the Simi Valley Cultural Arts Center.

Harry and Maxine Eastman, tourists from East Orange, N.J., are visiting the antebellum Louisiana mansion that is Maxine's ancestral home, when they're suddenly and inexplicably whisked back from 1994 to 1861, straight into a highly charged dramatic situation. Lucinda Benhorn is about to have a baby, but her father--Col. Jedediah Benhorn--keeps shooting her boyfriends to death in an effort to preserve what's left of the family honor.

Realizing that what happens to the Benhorn family line will directly affect Maxine, the 1990s couple embroil themselves in the 1860s imbroglio.

Science fiction buffs have developed a set of strict time-travel conventions, none more inflexible than that messing with the past ensures dire and widespread consequences for the present. Don't expect these laws to be followed here (the fact that Maxine is alive in the first place indicates that everything had turned out fine without her and Harry's interference), but the comedy still works on its own very broad terms.

The characters are caricatures, with Harry (Rusty Perry) dressed in an aloha shirt, plaid shorts, brown calf-length socks and white sandals, while Maxine (Jan Glasband) looks just as garish in her floral-print pedal pushers, green top and turquoise shoes. The Southerners are dressed more conservatively, but play their parts just as broadly--the animated cartoon rooster Foghorn Leghorn would fit perfectly in this company.

Both groups tend to be smarter at some time than others; everybody, for instance, accepts the concept of time travel surprisingly well. It's Harry's inspiration that he can manipulate events to his own devious needs that really sets things going.

Mark Voland plays Col. Benhorn, Toni Beery is Benhorn's daffy daughter Lucinda, Irene Silbert and John Henry Whitaker appear as a couple other limbs of the family tree, and Harrison Ray and Brett Parrott portray Lucinda's ill-fated suitors. All are fine, gleefully overplaying under the playwright's direction in a fashion that's suitable for the Moorpark Melodrama.


* WHAT: "Time for Murder"

* WHEN: Friday and Saturday evenings at 8 p.m., concludes Sunday at 4 p.m.

* WHERE: Simi Valley Cultural Arts Center, 3190 Cochran St., Simi Valley

* COST: Free; donations for local earthquake relief are encouraged

* FYI: For reservations or further information, call 583-9763

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