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THEATER BEAT

Chasing 'Round' Fun at Actors Alley

October 07, 1994|F. KATHLEEN FOLEY

"Round and Round the Garden" at Actors Alley is the final play in Alan Ayckbourn's 1973 trilogy "The Norman Conquests." Still resiliently contemporary in tone, the play suffers little wear and tear from being lifted out of the triptych's framework and performed solo.

Norman (Joe Garcia) is the comic hub, the whirling center from which all sexual complications arise. An assistant librarian with a flair for the dramatic, Norman has libidinous designs on his unmarried sister-in-law Annie (Karen Reed), who is getting tired of waiting for her stodgy admirer Tom (Alex Glas) to make some definitive move, be it honorable or licentious. When Annie backs out of a planned weekend tryst with Norman, he gets blotto and promptly proceeds to pitch woo at his prim sister-in-law Sarah (Sandy Rosenberg), who, although purportedly happily married to Reg (Barry Pearl), proves surprisingly receptive to Norman's pawings.

With the arrival of Norman's savvy, no-nonsense wife, Ruth, (Diane Sainte-Marie), sister to Annie and Reg, yet more hell breaks loose, as obfuscations mount upon follies, with Norman's towering vanity overshadowing all. A well-meaning Lothario who sincerely wants the women in his life to be happy, Norman is fortunately as ineffectual as he is randy. Despite the present crisis, one feels that family unity will ultimately prevail.

With his cast of American actors, director Joseph R. Sicari has a hard row to hoe in this quintessentially British "Garden." However, despite the occasionally errant dialect and a slightly wooden performance by Sainte-Marie, Sicari harvests a nosegay of comedic performances. Garcia, who plays the best drunk since Foster Brooks, has a puppylike sincerity that spares the play any hint of the nudge-nudge, wink-wink school of sex farce.

* "Round and Round the Garden," Actors Alley, 5220 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood. Wednesdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7:30 p.m. Ends Oct. 30. $18. (818) 508-4200. Running time: 2 hours.

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