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FAMILY : 'Indian Legends' Comes to Life

October 07, 1994|LYNNE HEFFLEY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Who created the seasons and the night out of the sounds of rustling dry grass, bats wings and gasping fish? How did Hiawatha bring peace to the Iroquois nations? What gift did a Lakota hunter receive from the wind and the red-headed woodpecker?

The answers can be found inside the little Wooden-O Theatre, tucked away on a quiet side street in West Los Angeles, where the L.A. Troupe, a small group of earnest and able young actors, are presenting "Indian Legends of the Americas," an unpretentious hour of storytelling based on legends of the Iroquois, Lakota, Inuit, Sioux, Navajo, Tobas, Campas, Maya, Chorote and Inca traditions.

On an almost bare stage, with few props, the black-clad actors--Andrew Leighton, Fallon, Richie Castro and Cheryl Mahar--take turns performing as gods, animals, tribe members and trees. The cast and director Koni McCurdy avoid an overly reverential tone, although the first act suffers from an over-use of contemporary slang to connect with the audience. The highlight is "Averiri," a poetic creation story.

The troupe, which ordinarily performs its "theater-in-education" shows in schools, scores highest marks in the second act, for a humorous tale of courtship, "The Love Flute," and for the real version of "Hiawatha," Longfellow notwithstanding. The show's finale, about the circle of life, is delivered with a moving genuineness.

One suggestion: Using limited props and banners is fine, but how about brighter colors and some artistic style?

* "Indian Legends of the Americas," Wooden-O Theatre, 2207 Federal Ave., West L.A., Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m., $5; (310) 477-2199. Running time: 1 hour.

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