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Abbreviating the Bard Draws Big Laughs

EA clever blend of slapstick, puns and general silliness creates an entertaining 'Compleat Works' on Ventura College's stage.


For those of us who have seen too many productions of "Romeo and Juliet" or "A Midsummer Night's Dream," nothing could be more welcome than the Ventura College production of "The Compleat Works of Wllm Shkspr (abridged)."

Smart-aleck playwrights Adam Long, Daniel Singer and Jess Winfield pretty much deliver on the title's promise: The show breezes through almost all of Shakespeare's plays.

The troupe appears to be more enthusiastic than skillful except for this: It takes considerable skill to perform breakneck farce that includes: "Titus Andronicus" as a cooking show; all the comedies compressed into one generic piece; "Macbeth" with Scottish accents as genuine as Mel Gibson's; and "Hamlet" done backward. It's all done to maximum effect, and with more than a passing knowledge of The Real Thing.

The seven students assembled by director Judy Garey have the talent, and can at least fake the knowledge. While it helps to be at least vaguely familiar with some of the major works, there's plenty of slapstick, punning and all-out silliness to keep just about anybody entertained for a just-right two hours (including intermission).

Each member of the cast plays multiple roles, and all are excellent: Martha Benavides, Ephraim Chavez (who takes several of the female leads), Travis Greer, Katie Lamberton, Dean Lundquist, Holly Matakiewicz and Natasha Saum.

* "The Compleat Works of Wllm Shkspr (abridged)" concludes this weekend at Ventura College Mainstage Theater, on Loma Vista Boulevard east of Day Road in Ventura. Performances are 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 3 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $7 general admission; $5 for students, Ventura College staff and seniors. For information, call 654-6397.

Yellow Brick Road Ends in . . . Moorpark? The Moorpark Melodrama hits two for two with its production, "Oz." Its second reconstruction of a 1939 MGM film in a row, "Oz" is as entertaining as "Gone with the Gust."

"Oz" isn't as much a parody as "Gust"; rather, it's a retelling by Tim Kelly of L. Frank Baum's story, with original songs by the playwright.

The unusually strong cast directed and choreographed by Joy Enright features three Melodrama veteran comics--Damian Gravino, Jeff Wallach and George Lindsey Jr.--as the Cowardly Lion, Tin Woodsman and Scarecrow, respectively.

The high quality of their work is no surprise. What's special about "Oz," and bodes well for future Melodrama productions, are its two female leads: Erin Meredith Eichberg, making her Melodrama debut, is a singer with an especially strong, "legit" voice, and Amanda Reeves, who plays Toto, is a dancer whose skill prompts the rest of the cast to do better-than-average work in that area.

Other strong performances include Kathi Janca Sowell as the Wicked Witch of the West, Amy Sullivan as Aunt Em, and Susan Burns as Glinda. Kelly's new songs won't make anyone forget "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," but they're adequate, and the Melodrama's costume department has done an extra-special job.

* "Oz" continues through June 2 at the Magnificent Moorpark Melodrama & Vaudeville Co., 45 E. High St., Moorpark. Performances are 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, with matinees at 3 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. There will be additional performances at 7 p.m. some Thursdays; call for details. Tickets for all performances are $12; $9.50 for seniors (55 and over), children (11 and under) on Thursday, Saturday and Sunday afternoon performances only. For reservations or information, call 529-1212 between noon and 6 p.m. daily.

Free Lunch for Look-Alikes: Identical twins of all ages are invited to a commercial shoot for the New West Symphony's "Double Concerto" concert. All interested should assemble at the (heh, heh) Doubletree Inn, 2055 Harbor Blvd., Ventura, by 11:30 a.m. Monday. Those participating will receive a box lunch and two tickets (per twin) to one of the two concerts. Interested twins should contact Christopher Vore at 684-6035.

Casting Call: Auditions for Shakespeare in the Park's summer production, "Two Gentlemen of Verona," will be held from 1-4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at the Arts Council Center, 482 Greenmeadow Drive, Thousand Oaks. Call (818) 991-0317 for information.

Auditions by appointment only will be held this weekend and Monday for Cabrillo Music Theater's production of "Guys and Dolls." Auditions for the roles of Sky Masterson, Sarah Brown, Nathan Detroit, Miss Adelaide and Nicely-Nicely will take place Saturday in Burbank; additional principal, chorus and dancer auditions will be held Sunday and Monday in Newbury Park. Call 497-8613 for information or appointments for all auditions.

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