If there was ever a pretext needed for a theater lover's extended sojourn in Santa Barbara, it would have to be the unprecedented profusion of plays opening in the days ahead. Topping the heap is the Central Coast premiere of "The Kentucky Cycle," Robert Schenkkan's Pulitzer Prize-winning five-hour saga of three Appalachian families. It will be performed in two parts at the Santa Barbara City College Garvin Theatre with 30 professional and amateur regional performers in over 90 roles.
Opening tonight and running in repertory through April 1, the parts can be viewed on a single Saturday or Sunday afternoon and evening, or over consecutive weeknights. Prices are $15 for each part, or both parts for $24; (805) 965-5935.
Also opening this weekend is the Ensemble Theatre Company's production of "Oleanna," David Mamet's controversial exploration of sexual harassment, power and domination. James O'Neill and Dena Anderson spark conflict as a professor and student in this special addition to the company's announced season. Through March 26, Wednesdays through Saturdays at 8, Sundays at 2 p.m., $15 to $20, 962-8606.
At the nearby Center Stage Theater in the Paseo Nuevo Mall, two British-themed shows employing a common strategy of multiple role-playing will run in repertory through April 1. "Shirley Valentine," Willy Russell's one-woman comedy, features Karyl Lynn Burns as a frustrated Liverpool housewife contemplating a change of life. The non-Equity performers in "Bouncers" enforce the rules and play all the parts in John Godber's frenetic comedy about the early 1980s London dance club scene. Through March 31, Fridays at 8 p.m., Sundays at 4 p.m. and 7 p.m., with a Wednesday, March 29 show at 8 p.m. $18.50 general, $16.50 seniors and students, with a $10 preview tonight. 963-0408.