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THEATER REVIEWS : Stylishly Dark 'Killjoy' Is Dead Ringer for Sitcom


NEWPORT BEACH — Jerry Mayer, who has enjoyed success writing for such television sitcoms as "M*A*S*H" and "The Facts of Life," holds true to his training by trying to include something for everyone in his play "Killjoy," billed as "a romantic comedy thriller."

At the Newport Theatre Arts Center this month, "Killjoy" is a light evening of punch lines and predictable predicaments, perfect for anyone who likes television but doesn't want to sit at home.

Presented with style under Ken Rugg's direction, it focuses on a familiar nest of domesticated snakes, the "dysfunctional" American family (is there any other kind?) complete with a single mom, a bullying ex-husband, a young and ambitious second wife, a scheming lawyer and the poor, put-upon kids who, in true Hollywood tradition, turn out to be far more mature and capable than any of the so-called grown-ups.

Rugg's production is trim and self-assured, from the neat box set by designer John Nokes to the picture-perfect casting: Leading lady Linda Van Dine even looks like Carol Burnett. The characters and the comedy are so recognizable that the show seems to have a silent laugh track built right in. Even when the production missed a comic beat, the audience knew it was time to laugh.

The stand-out performer is Stephen Chamberlain, whose nerdy, depressed Sonny comes with a glint of real madness in his widened eyes. Chamberlain brings a taste of danger to an otherwise harmless night out with a murderous, all-American family.

* "Killjoy," Newport Theatre Arts Center, 2501 Cliff Drive, Newport Beach. Thursday-Saturday, 8 p.m., Sunday, 2:30 p.m. Ends Oct. 30. $13. (714) 631-0288. Running time: 2 hours, 40 minutes.

Stephen Chamberlain: Sonny

Linda Van Dine: Carol

Larissa McMahon: Claudia

Richard Meese: Rick

Jessica Faith Sandilla: Vickie

Michael Weller: Victor

A Newport Theatre Arts Center production of a play by Jerry Mayer, directed by Ken Rugg. Produced by Terri Miller Schmidt. Set and lights: John Nokes. Costumes: Tom Phillips.

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