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VENTURA COUNTY WEEKEND | THEATER NOTES

Strong Leads Pay Off in Local 'Guys and Dolls'

A good supporting cast rounds out the vibrant Cabrillo Theatre production at Civic Arts Plaza.

July 18, 1996|TODD EVERETT | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The Cabrillo Music Theater production is the first local "Guys and Dolls" since it was mounted in September by the Camarillo Community Theater, just down the Conejo grade. This one's worth the wait.

A relatively recent Broadway revival made stars of Nathan Lane and Faith Prince, as gambling entrepreneur Nathan Detroit and his longtime fiancee, Miss Adelaide.

Since then, directors have tended to spotlight those secondary, comic roles over the show's seemingly mismatched romantic leads, debonair playboy Sky Masterson and Sarah Brown, missionary in a Salvation Army-styled outfit.

Director Lewis Wilkenfeld here restores the balance, by casting particularly strong actors in the leading roles. Amick Bryam (Masterson) played opposite Glenn Close in "Sunset Boulevard," and Jenna Leigh Greenberg (Brown) might be familiar to local audiences, having co-starred in the Conejo Players' productions of "Into the Woods" and "The Secret Garden."

The supporting players are excellent as well, notably Barry Pearl and Charlotte Carpenter as Nathan and Adelaide (Pearl underplays somewhat, with no loss of character).

Then there's the felicitous pairing of William Shupe (a veteran of numerous Moorpark Melodrama productions) and Greg Gion as Benny Southstreet and Nicely-Nicely Johnson: The Shupe-Gion duet of the show's title song was the first number to really light up the stage at Friday's opening, followed by a terrific sequence featuring Sky and Sarah at a Havana night club.

John Charron's witty choreography and Diann Alexander's musical direction make the most of a cast large enough to almost overflow the Probst Center stage. The costumes are nothing if not colorful--a reminder of the "Dick Tracy" film.

* "Guys and Dolls" continues through Sunday at Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza, 2100 E. Thousand Oaks Plaza. Shows are 8 p.m. Friday, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday. Tickets cost $17-$27. Call 497-8616.

'Search' Pays Off: Jane Wagner's play "The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe" won several awards when mounted on Broadway in 1985, starring Wagner's longtime partner, Lily Tomlin. Reinterpreted at the Santa Paula Theater Center by actress Donna Kimball, the play shows signs of age, but still offers plenty of laughs and intelligence of its own.

Kimball, in a performance that is strong and consistent, plays 14 people in a series of sketches anchored by Trudy, a New York City bag lady who explains she's waiting "at the corner of 'Walk' and 'Don't Walk' " for a couple of space aliens for whom she acts as "creative consultant." Crazy by her own admission, Trudy (of course) winds up as the sanest person in the play.

Among the characters are a wealthy socialite, a teenage punkette, a steroid-bound male bodybuilder, two prostitutes and a woman who finds herself in a kind of New Age marriage. There's plenty of room for variety of interpretation here, and Kimball largely comes through--without, it should be noted, the aid of costume or makeup changes.

Some of the references may be a bit obscure or outdated--who today would refer to a VCR as a "Betamax" or her pair of scrappy sons as "two little Charlie Bronsons?--but there's enough solid material here to help even younger audiences skip over references to est and the Peter Principle, two terms in vogue in 1985, but not today.

One of the great and enduring pleasures of "The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe" is the way in which Wagner's script keeps doubling back on itself, with seemingly unrelated characters and situations threading their way through the 150-or-so minutes.

* "The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe" continues through Aug. 11 at Santa Paula Theater Center, 125 S. 7th St., Santa Paula. Performances are 8 p.m., Thursday-Saturday with 2 p.m. Sunday matinees. Tickets are $12.50 adults; $10 for students and seniors. The show is not recommended for younger audiences. Call 525-4645.

Casting Call: The Santa Paula Theater Center will hold open auditions tonight and Saturday afternoon for actors and technical people for their upcoming season.

Actors should prepare a monologue of their choice between two to five minutes, and also expect to do a cold reading for artistic director David Ralphe; technicians and designers should bring a resume and portfolio. Call 525-4645 for an appointment.

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