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VENTURA COUNTY WEEKEND | THEATER NOTES

Conejo Players Float a Shipboard Comedy

A crew of strong performers does justice to the post-World War II 'Mister Roberts' made famous by Henry Fonda.

June 20, 1996|TODD EVERETT | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

One of the first military comedies to hit Broadway, "Mister Roberts" is in many ways the prototype and standard for those that have followed--including "MASH." For many years one of America's more popular community theater plays, it's less often revived these days, making the Conejo Players production especially welcome.

Stationed on a cargo ship somewhere in the South Pacific, Lt. j.g. Douglas Roberts hungers to be closer to the war. But his applications for transfer are vetoed by Capt. Morgan, an "ignorant, arrogant, ambitious jackass," as Roberts puts it, who is more than a little jealous of the regard the crewman have for their cargo officer.

While Roberts campaigns for his transfer, there's a blend of roughneck comedy, pathos and a reminder that war isn't a game.

Henry Fonda created the title role in Thomas Heggen's and Joshua Logan's 1947 Broadway hit. Repeating it in the film version, Fonda was as identified with the character as Robert Preston came to be as Professor Harold Hill in "The Music Man."

Scott McCray doesn't stray far from Fonda's portrayal, and is effective in the part. Rick Meyer, on the other hand, takes the comic role of Ensign Pulver in his own direction, more of a cross between Don Adams and Don Knotts than the film's Jack Lemmon. It's an interesting choice; a bit histrionic but effective.

Jack McGee and Dick Johnson are solid as the captain and ship's doctor, respectively. McGee's apoplexy when defied by Roberts is something to behold.

The rest of the crew is fine, and a brief appearance by Valerie Baltzer as a shore bound nurse received one of opening night's major laughs.

* "Mister Roberts" continues through July 20 at Conejo Players Theater, 351 S. Moorpark Road, Thousand Oaks. Shows are at 8 p.m. Tickets are $8 Thursdays, $10 on Fridays, and $12 Saturdays. For reservations, or information about senior, student and group discounts, call 495-3715.

*

Snappy Mystery: It might not be as famous as either "The Mousetrap" or "Sleuth," but Lucille Fletcher's "Night Watch" is the same kind of mystery with a kick. Directed by Christine Laird, it's the offering of Oxnard's Elite Theater Company.

Heiress Elaine Wheeler (Judy Heiliger) looks out the window of her Manhattan townhouse early one morning, and sees a dead body framed by the window of the apartment next door. Or does she?

Her husband (Bill Brandt) and best friend, Blanche (Mary Schachtschneider) don't think so, and when the police (Jeff Pemberton and Vincent D'Andrea) show up, they find nothing awry.

Is Elaine--who has a history of mental problems--hallucinating, or has playwright Fletcher simply seen to many late-night reruns of the classic film "Gaslight"? Helga, the maid (Jennetta Schoenbach) suspects something's amiss.

Dr. Lake (Jeanie Naysmith) wants to send Elaine to a world-famous insomnia clinic in Geneva, but is she really a psychologist? And how do Curtis Appleby (Irv Citron), the effete and snoopy editor of a neighborhood newspaper, or Sam (Edward K. Hudson) the deli guy, figure into all of this?

The play is fast-moving (about two hours) and should keep you guessing. Those are reasons enough to recommend the production.

* "Night Watch" continues through July 13 at Petit Playhouse, 730 South B St. in Oxnard's Heritage Square. Shows are at 8:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 2 p.m. Sundays. General admission is $10; seniors, $8. For reservations or further information, call 483-5118.

*

Casting Call: The Moorpark Melodrama will hold auditions for its production of "Greased," a musical with a strong similarity (we presume) to the classic "Grease." Sign in at 7 p.m. Monday at the Melodrama's theater, 45 E. High St. in Moorpark, prepared to sing, dance and do a cold reading from the script for director Steve Robertson. Bring your own sheet music, an accompanist will be provided. For information, call 529-1212.

Director Don Pearlman will cast the Conejo Players' Afternoon Theater production of "The Cemetery Club," at 7 p.m. Sunday at the Players' Theater, 351 S. Moorpark Road, Thousand Oaks. The show will run weekend matinees only, Sept. 1-22. For information, call Elinor at 492-2526.

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