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VENTURA COUNTY WEEKEND | THEATER NOTES

Making the Most of His Dislike of the Bard

Ventura's Plaza Players will stage Paul Rudnick's Broadway show, 'I Hate "Hamlet," ' this weekend.

February 15, 1996|TODD EVERETT | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

He's an accomplished playwright, with film credits including the scripts for "Addams Family Values" and the screen adaptation of his own stage hit, "Jeffrey." But Paul Rudnick based his 1991 Broadway show, "I Hate 'Hamlet,' " (which Ventura's Plaza Players are staging beginning Saturday night) on his own experience, and claims that he's still none too fond of Shakespeare.

"I've seen a few productions that keep me awake, but I usually think, 'Why don't they talk in normal sentences?'--it's the usual 5-year-old's reaction to the classics," the New York playwright said.

"I had moved into John Barrymore's old apartment, the top floor of a brownstone in Greenwich Village," Rudnick explained. "The gothic atmosphere demanded that I write a play about it."

In the play, the renowned thespian's ghost comes back to "harangue and torment" a young television actor rehearsing the role of Hamlet for a Shakespeare production.

Rudnick's earlier credits include the first script for the film "Sister Act," then designed as a vehicle for Bette Midler. When she abdicated and Whoopi Goldberg signed on, Rudnick departed.

"I'd already spent my time and imagination on it, so it was best to let others take over," he said. After an uncredited script doctoring on the first "Addams Family" film, he was signed to write the sequel.

His new play, "The Naked Truth," had a limited run in New York. And, though he still won't admit it, Rudnick is generally understood to be the author of a very funny column on film in the magazine Premiere, attributed to housewife Libby Gelman-Waxner.

Asked if he's kidding about his professed attitude toward Shakespeare, Rudnick relented slightly. "If performed gloriously and staged imaginatively, I suppose he's worth keeping around. Have him call my agent."

* "I Hate 'Hamlet' " opens Saturday night at the Senior Recreation Center, 420 E. Santa Clara St. in Ventura, and continues at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays through March 9. Opening night tickets are $20, which includes an after-show reception at Shakey's Pizza Parlor. Tickets to subsequent shows are $10 general; $8, seniors and students. For reservations or further information, call 653-2378.

*

Lane Davies, founder and artistic director of the Thousand Oaks-based Santa Susana Repertory Company, is a familiar face to television viewers. He co-stars in the Fox network sitcom "The Crew," which airs Thursday nights at 8:30. He recently made his second appearance as "arrogant time-traveling psychotic" villain Tempus on ABC's "Lois and Clark: the New Adventures of Superman."

But Davies, who directed the Santa Susana production of "Driving Miss Daisy," opening Friday night, has also become an international celebrity, earned after several seasons as black sheep Mason Capwell on the soap opera "Santa Barbara."

He has twice toured the former Soviet Union, where old episodes of "Santa Barbara" continue to run twice daily. In addition, he has released a single record in France, appeared at a festival in Turkey, "and was given a free bungalow over the water in Tahiti because the show is so popular there," he said. "I'm told we're huge in India, as well."

Davies founded the Santa Susana Repertory Company in part as an outlet for his ambitions to act in and direct live theater. The company debuted in 1988 with "A Christmas Carol," produced in a Simi Valley elementary school auditorium.

Relocating to Thousand Oaks in 1994, the company became the Civic Arts Plaza's resident professional theater company and opened that September with a production of "Man of La Mancha," starring Davies. The company's most recent "Carol" ran last December.

Davies is negotiating to take the Santa Susana production of "Man of La Mancha" to Russia. Local fans take note: He plans to star in the company's "Cyrano de Bergerac," later this season.

* "Driving Miss Daisy" opens Friday night at Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza's Forum Theatre, 2100 E. Thousand Oaks Blvd. Performances continue at 8:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2:30 p.m. Sundays through March 10. Tickets are $20; $18 for students and seniors, and are available at the Civic Arts Plaza box office, or through TicketMaster (805) 583-8700. For further information, call 497-8616.

Casting Call: The Buenaventura Theatre Group holds auditions Saturday and Sunday for its revue "An Evening of Irving Berlin." This is not the same show that the Santa Paula Theater Center presented last year, although Buenaventura artistic director Gary Poirot was a principal in that one, too. Call 648-6160 for audition appointments or information.

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