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VENTURA COUNTY WEEKEND | THEATER NOTES

'Honestly, Now!' Casts Mystery as a Farce

The well-acted comedy, involving double identities and a jewel heist, offers amusing scenes and lots of surprises.

August 15, 1996|TODD EVERETT | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

A plethora of plays have opened in Ventura County during the past couple of weeks. The least known of these and a very pleasant surprise is Jack Sharkey's "Honestly, Now!" playing at the Petit Playhouse in Oxnard.

It's a farce and something of a takeoff on mysteries like "The Mousetrap," in which nothing makes sense until a sharp detective pops out of nowhere to explain everything to the audience.

The mystery takes place in a tony hotel on the French Riviera and revolves around double identities and a jewel heist. Carlita Umbro, an American millionaire determined to break into Washington, D.C., society, is preparing to throw a lavish party for Sen. Sam Clayton. Helping her is the hotel's party planner, Nadine Marston, who discovers that Carlita's 42-year-old son, Hector, has the mind of a pre-adolescent. High-jinks ensue.

Under Andrew Dunn's direction, practically everybody plays very broadly, except Jeanie Hays as Nadine, who provides the focal point. Juanita Seavey and Glen Heppner portray the Umbros, and his multifaceted Hector is especially notable.

Dave Norman plays blustery Sen. Clayton, with Yolanda Lesser as his wife; Jeff Pemberton and Lea Marie appear as a pair of American tourists who have won a trip to France on a game show; and Jake Lesser portrays Raoul, a room-service waiter whom Carlita insists on addressing as "Pierre."

The action moves swiftly--though it bogs down when there are more than a few characters onstage at once--and the surprises keep coming until the ending. While not Great Theater by anybody's definition (nor was it meant to be), "Honestly, Now!" provides an entertaining couple of hours in a nice setting.

* "Honestly, Now!" continues at 8:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2:30 Sundays through Sept. 7 at Petit Playhouse, 720 South B St. in Oxnard's Heritage Square. Tickets are $10, $8 seniors; Visa and MasterCard accepted. For reservations or information, call 483-5118.

*

New Seasons Announced: Two worthy local companies have recently announced their 1996-97 seasons. The California Shakespeare Company's new season opens Sept. 20 with "Macbeth," followed by "The Taming of the Shrew" (Nov. 15), "Henry VIII" (Feb. 7), and 'Hamlet" (April 11).

And, speaking of "The Taming of the Shrew," Cal Lutheran University will stage Cole Porter's and Sam & Bella Spewack's Broadway musical adaptation of the play, "Kiss Me, Kate," at Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza in March.

For California Shakespeare Festival information, call 498-3354. More details on Cal Lutheran's season will be forthcoming.

The Santa Paula Theater Center, whose announcement has been delayed while it makes building improvements, will finally get around to performing the baseball comedy "Bleacher Bums," originally scheduled earlier this year. The opening date is set for Sept. 25.

The troupe's holiday production, opening Dec. 6, is an adaptation of Charles Dickens' "The Cricket on the Hearth." Don't worry, there will be at least one "Christmas Carol" elsewhere in December.

James Goldman's historical drama, "The Lion in Winter" (Henry II getting on in years) opens Feb. 21, and Neil Simon's "Laughter on the 23rd Floor" (based on his experience as a television writer in the '50s) opens in June.

To be included on the theater center's mailing list, call 525-4645, and don't be surprised if some of these shows also play in Simi Valley.

A Matter of Interpretation: A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a column about theater in which children are charged fees to participate. In it, a local director was quoted as saying that productions in which children are cast function as baby-sitters for several weeks. He was speaking from a parent's perspective, not commenting on the hard-working adults who supervise these productions.

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