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THEATER REVIEWS : A Light Look at Subject of Mortality : 'Joined at the Head' allows Moorpark College's small cast to express a wide range of emotions.

October 20, 1994|TODD EVERETT | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

If the central character of a literary work is a writer, you can assume the piece to be at least partially autobiographical--most writers don't have enough imagination to recast themselves as people with real jobs.

With that in mind, Katherine Butterfield's 1992 "Joined at the Head" is clearly based on a crucial experience in her own life. The play, running through this weekend at Moorpark College and directed by the theater department's Katherine Lewis, is frequently amusing, occasionally touching, and imaginatively staged. For those who can find Moorpark College's Forum Theater--always a challenge for anyone not attending the college on a daily basis--it's worth a look-see.

Butterfield's surrogate is Maggie (Wendy Berna), who is revisiting her home town of Boston while on a book-signing tour to promote her new novel based on "the foibles of the father-daughter thing." While there, she's surprised to hear from an old boyfriend (James Brough), and even more surprised when he suggests that she meet his wife.

"You have a lot in common," he suggests.

What he is referring to is their sense of humor, but it turns out that Jim Burroughs' wife (Sarah Jo Marks) is also named Maggie--or, probably to make the actor understand who in the script he's talking to--"Maggy."

Maggy, it turns out, has cancer, possibly terminal. She and Maggie become friends over dinner, and when Maggy moves to the hospital, Maggie is forced to confront her own mortality. Uncomfortable at the prospect, she . . . well, that's the story, but you can count on many Great Truths to be revealed along the way.

Maggie narrates, often speaking directly to the audience. Characters wander on and off stage as they become necessary to the story, and that's where much of the fun takes place--Maggie's confrontations with a New-Agey sales clerk (Sevrin Mason), a series of fans at a book signing and an unctuous TV interview host (Joe Sanfelippo) would be highlights of any play.

All three principals are fine, shifting through a wide range of emotions as the story evolves, though Berna, as Maggie, gets the best lines and the most to work with. What? You thought the author would give them to somebody else?

Details

* WHAT: "Joined at the Head."

* WHEN: 7 tonight; 8 tomorrow and Saturday night.

* WHERE: Forum Theater, Moorpark College, 7075 Campus Road, Moorpark.

* COST: $7 general admission; $6 students and seniors.

* FYI: For reservations or further information, call 378-1468.

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