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THEATER NOTES : Goodbye Bloomies, Hello Canon

February 04, 1996|Don Shirley | Don Shirley is a Times staff writer

When "Bermuda Avenue Triangle" opens today at the Canon Theatre in Beverly Hills (after a successful run at the smaller Tiffany Theater in West Hollywood), it may signal a new lease on life for the mid-sized Canon.

For the past year, the Canon has been under a cloud. It was slated to be demolished as part of a plan devised by its owner, Federated Department Stores, to build a nearby Bloomingdale's. The potential loss of the Canon generated protests from such theatrical luminaries as Lynn Redgrave, Charlton Heston and Gordon Davidson.

Now, however, the Bloomingdale's project has been called off. Since Federated bought the Broadway chain last year, company officials decided to convert the Broadway in Beverly Hills-adjacent Century City to a Bloomingdale's rather than build a new store from scratch.

Federated still owns the Canon, but no decision has been reached on the fate of the property, said a company spokeswoman. The theater's executive directors, Joan Stein and Susan Dietz, said that they have no word on Federated's plans, although Dietz speculated that the theater either could be sold as part of the entire Federated parcel or individually sold, as it's located on one end of the parcel.

Stein and Dietz hold a show-by-show lease on the Canon. Dietz said that Federated and Gucci, the building's previous owner, both agreed "never to close a show in the middle of a run."

"I think the Canon will survive," Dietz said. "Six or eight months ago, I would have been prepared to say 'Bye-bye, Canon,' but now the prognosis is good."

*

"TWILIGHT" EVOLVES: When Anna Deavere Smith performed her solo "Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992" in New York in 1994, it was a different show from the one that originated at the Mark Taper Forum in 1993. Compiled from interviews Smith conducted about the Los Angeles riots of 1992, Smith portrayed 40 characters in New York instead of the 26 in L.A. She shuffled the order in which they appeared and added an intermission. At the time of the New York staging, Smith forecast that there wouldn't be further changes.

Apparently she changed her mind. Last week Smith opened "Twilight" in a Berkeley Repertory Theatre production staged by Sharon Ott ("The Ballad of Yachiyo," "The Woman Warrior") at San Francisco's Marines Memorial Theatre--and again the changes are considerable. According to the printed program, the character count is down to 35. Five of those were added since New York, including Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles) and professor and author Cornel West.

Opera singer Jessye Norman (who wasn't in the Los Angeles version) has the first words in this latest version, as compared with sculptor Rudy Salas Sr. in Los Angeles and Korean American activist Chung Lee in New York (Lee is no longer in the show at all). As in New York, but not in Los Angeles, gang truce organizer Twilight Bey has the last words.

The activist whose words ended the production in L.A., Gladis Sibrian, is back in the show after being dropped for New York, as is former L.A. police commissioner Stanley Sheinbaum. Among the characters who were added for New York but have now been dropped are attorney Lani Guinier and musician Dan Kuramoto.

The second act now includes, according to the program, a "Fantasia, imagined by the artist to be at a table (these words were said but these people have not, to date, been in such a room together)." By throwing some of her characters together as if they were speaking to each other, Smith is taking more liberties than usual with her raw material. She has listed her own name alongside the others as one of the characters in this version.

"This is just not finished with me," Smith told the San Francisco Chronicle in a recent interview. "The riots have never been fully articulated . . . I still feel the unsettledness and restlessness of ideas. Nowhere can I find a finality. It's still in progress."

The San Francisco staging will play through March 17. It includes original music composed and performed by saxophonist Joshua Redman.

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