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Life's a Cabaret at Artsy Coolsville

June 06, 1996|JAMES McCAFFREY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

LAGUNA BEACH — South Orange County has more than its share of casual, surf-themed nightspots. Now an upstart club on Laguna Canyon Road offers a decidedly higher-brow, better-heeled alternative. Coolsville, at what used to be Club Post-Nuclear, is a quirky club-performance space with an artistic sensibility, providing theater, comedy and a cabaret in addition to the usual bump and grind.

Copiously adorned with colorful artwork by manager Roark Gourley, Coolsville on Friday presents the Changing Masks Theater Company's farewell performance of its well-reviewed "Glengarry Glen Ross." Wednesday nights are comedy showcases; there's an impressive cabaret on Saturday evenings and late live dancing with DJ Jo Phuture on Friday and Saturday nights. (There are murmurs of occasional live bands, though none is scheduled.)

If you check out the cabaret, bring plenty of money: Admission is $12, and a glass of decent cabernet sauvignon will cost you $6. Bookended by a Sinatra crooner who could melt the heart of the most seasoned Vegas aficionado and dance vignettes by the Solfire Dancers that roust customers from their seats, the cabaret is eclectic enough to interest most.

The crowd is middle-aged (most of the thirty- and fortysomethings said they heard of the place through the performers). A small gathering of twentysomethings wandered about aimlessly through the evening, perhaps anticipating a late-night revelry that never came. The dancing that started around midnight--to pedestrian RuPaul and Eurythmics mixes--fell flat.

The 3-month-old club is not without its appeal--the varied offerings demonstrate a willingness to deviate from generic fare--but its ability to survive in the crowded and competitive club market would seem to rest on its ability to remain cutting-edge while broadening its audience to include younger folks. A permanent arrangement with Changing Masks could benefit both parties; most performances of "Glengarry" were sellouts.

* Coolsville

* 775 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach.

* [714] 376-2048.

* Wed. 8:30 p.m.-2 a.m.; Fri.-Sat. 9 p.m.-2 a.m.

* $5-$15 admission; beer and wine range from $2-$9.50.

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