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A Sorry 'Sorry' Night From Ana-Modjeska Players

May 29, 1996|T.H. McCULLOH | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

ANAHEIM — An amateur is defined as "a person who does something for the pleasure of it." The Ana-Modjeska Players certainly take great pleasure in what they do.

The definition continues: "a person who does something more or less unskillfully."

That also fits this ersatz company. The problems begin with the choice of material in the evening of three one-acts. Two are juvenile works at best.

Gary Apple's "When God Comes for Breakfast, You Don't Burn the Toast"--which wanders a bit, then fades out--is a pointless exercise about a couple entertaining the Deity early one morning. Jake Frakes' "Final Dress Rehearsal" is a junior high school-level skit concerning the mess an amateur company makes of a new version of "Cinderella."

Both of these are on this company's level of expertise. The third play is Lucille Fletcher's usually gripping "Sorry Wrong Number." This is Fletcher's original radio script, which starred Agnes Moorehead, but it loses its power and effect as a staged play, with the voices Mrs. Stevenson hears over the phone played by actors who walk on stage to speak.

Mrs. Stevenson, an invalid who listens to a murder plot through a bad connection and slowly realizes it is her murder being planned, is a difficult role that requires subtlety and an intricate maneuvering of emotion to create the suspense in Fletcher's short script.

Monique Ruiz, as Mrs. Stevenson, reads all her lines in the same unrelieved frenetic screech and misses any sense of reality or drama by a mile.

Christian Sarno and Kelly Sherwood are almost, but not quite, threatening as the killers. Mary Shelton, Vivette Zalaya, Monica Suter and Virginia Marchant at least have the right bland delivery as various telephone operators. Jim Madigan manages to contain himself admirably as the police sergeant Mrs. Stevenson bores with her fears.

In the other plays, no one survives the scripts or the foolish guidance of codirectors John Cordova and Brian Cramer.

In "Final Dress Rehearsal," Sarno is somewhat in touch with reality as the frenzied director in the "Cinderella" subplot, but John Townsend comes across as a witless caricature as the playwright. Townsend is also a shamefully camp God in "Breakfast."

The other cast members mug outrageously, lost in comic overkill, including Dee Ann Brown, who also gives a lesson between plays on why karaoke should be preceded by a few drinks, as she sings "Someone to Watch Over Me" to a lethargic recorded background.

* "Three One-Acts," Ana-Modjeska Players, Anaheim Plaza Community Room, Anaheim Plaza. Thursday-Saturday, 8 p.m. Ends Sunday. $6. (714) 991-4135. Running time: 2 hours.

Monique Ruiz: Mrs. Stevenson

Christian Sarno: George/Cinderella Director

Jim Madigan: Sgt. Duffy

John Townsend: God/Cinderella Author

Kelly Sherwood: First Man

Mary Shelton: First Operator

Vivette Zalaya: Miss Curtis

Monica Suter: Second Operator

Virginia Marchant: Third Operator

An Ana-Modjeska Players production of three one-acts. Produced by Gail Strachan. Direction/set & sound design by John Cordova and Brian Cramer. Lighting design: Kelly Sherwood. Costume design: Winged Illusions/Brian Cramer. Stage manager: Geneva Sherwood.

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