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Valley Chronicle

Troupe Gets Act Together to Help Battered Women's Home

August 29, 1994|SUE REILLY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

For the five women performing the upcoming two-act comedy "The Wives," the play's the thing, but not the only thing.

They like running their own production and are using some of the profits to benefit Haven Hills, a Valley-based home for victims of family violence.

These are actresses who are not content to wait passively for a casting call and a chance at stardom.

The venue is the elegant Ventura Court Theatre in Studio City, where benefit dinners will be presented Sept. 9 and 10. The food will be prepared by Andrea Rogantini, executive chef Prego restaurant in Beverly Hills. The performances will follow the meal.

Cost of each of the two dinner shows is $35. Other performances--scheduled for a four-week run, Thursdays through Sundays, beginning Sept. 8--are $15 each.

"The Wives" was written by one of the actresses, Rosie Taravella, who is also executive producer. It is a story of five women who are thrown together through their buddy-buddy husbands.

The five actresses, unlike their fictional counterparts, had no trouble bonding after meeting more than a year ago in acting classes given by Charles Nelson Reilly in Studio City.

In addition to Taravella are stuntwoman and actress Patricia Tallman; Christy Noonan, who has done commercials and episodic television; actress-writer Kendall Hailey; and Erin McLaughlin, an actress who as appeared in several television sitcoms, Taravella says.

"We like to work together, have become friends. We always sit together in Charles' classes, sort of like high school," Taravella says.

Taravella developed a working script in three months, her writing pace interrupted only by her May 27 wedding to fellow writer Mike Valerio.

The women are all thirtysomething and have dubbed their new company Broads on the Boards Productions. Their first coup: talking Reilly into directing.

Taravella, who put up her own money to cover initial production costs, says the group had to wait for Reilly to finish directing a Julie Andrews project back East before he could begin.

"We are all in awe of Charles because he is so multitalented. He seems to be equally at home teaching classes, directing operas or appearing on television game shows," she says.

Taravella chose Haven Hills as the beneficiary because the cause struck close to home for her. "I've had some firsthand experience with family violence," she says.

"In my mother's time, there was nowhere for women to go when this happened. There was also a sense of shame, on the part of the victims, which is really like being victimized twice," she says.

"We are happy to be doing our part to support a facility that offers shelters to battered women, one that supports them while helping to sustain their dignity," Taravella says.

Pump Up the Music: It's Full Volume Here

Pulling into the Unocal 76 service station at the corner of Fulton Avenue and Moorpark Street is like driving into a '50s movie about the future.

Cars and props look '90s, but something strange is going on here.

There's the owner giving candy to kids. Service manager, Dan, calls his customers by name.

Classical music is piped into the service bays.

Attendants give out roses on Mother's Day.

Isn't there some kind of law about unfair competition?

Hasn't anyone told these people about the in-your-face school of retailing?

What kind of scam are these people running here?

Not to worry.

They just haven't gotten the memo about the fall of polite civilization.

Seems that owner Ron Mathews, 38, really doesn't know any better. This is the way he's been taught to deal with customers ever since he was 6 and used to come here with his dad and put the oil can to everything in sight.

His father, Jack Mathews, started the station in 1960, when people were neighborly and everyone knew the corner gas station owner, Ron says.

Despite shifts in corporate identity and merchandising miseries, the modus operandi for this full-service station has remained unchanged.

"Service always worked for us, so we saw no reason to change that. It doesn't cost that much more, and it promotes customer loyalty," says Mathews, pointing out that customers who have moved to Beverly Hills and Palm Springs come back for service.

Mathews knows he's bucking the current trend of streamlining customer service to the robotic side of impersonalization. But, he says, "we pump a lot of gas, which is how we've survived as an independent for as long as we have."

Longtime customer Steve Pepper of Sherman Oaks says he can vouch for the customer loyalty, adding that at Christmas the place looks like a gift drop.

Mathews, who took over the station when his father retired, says his customers have given him some expensive toys.

One of his most memorable: two snowmobiles. He wasn't sure what he would do with them, until he learned that use of the customer's Mammoth Lakes lodge was part of the gift.

Overheard:

"I came home the other day and found my mother and her friend rolling on the floor, gasping for breath and laughing so hard they had the hiccups. I was worried until I realized they were watching her tapes of 'Ab Fab.' I think that program is dangerous for women her age."

Teen-ager in Encino commenting to her mother's friend about the 40-and-holding set's fave rave, "Absolutely Fabulous," a contemporary TV comedy shown periodically on the Comedy Channel.

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