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BEHIND THE SCENES / ORANGE COUNTY

DISCOvery Zone

The Commedia Dell Arte Theatre Company presents a genuine comedy with the look and feel of original polyester.

August 15, 1996

Stanley Gorman is a '90s computer nerd who digs Armani suits and Italian ties. Expensive tastes, sure--but hip? Maybe for the '80s, but not for today, when retro-'70s rules. At least that's the take in the Commedia Dell Arte Theatre Company's comedy "The Polyester Zone," which it performed recently at the outdoor University Center, across from UC Irvine.

In the play written by members of the Irvine theater company, Stanley (Mark Van Landingham) learns how to be with-it by being transported to the disco-loving, polyester-adoring 1970s. He finds a DJ mentor, Dr. Dave (Claudio Grubaciki); dance-duels the bully, Rico (Philip Lance); and gets the girl, Dionne Di Marco (Patricia Kimes).

Along the way, Stanley also gains a new wardrobe--you guessed it--straight from John Travolta in "Saturday Night Fever," white vest and all.

The free play, held at noon on a recent Saturday, attracted a wide range of people. Cast members pulled kids from the audience onto the disco dance floor, and everyone was encouraged to sign the letters during the "YMCA" number.

Producer-director Van Landingham says his plays are written "for all ages, from babies up to elderly. Some Saturdays have been hot, 90 and no shade, and they sit in the sun for 45 minutes and watch."

Van Landingham and partner Kimes started the theatrical company two years ago to help fight the "violence, bad language and sexual stuff that kids are watching," he says. "Kids are running around playing with guns and knives and joining gangs because they think it's cool.

"After being disgusted with it long enough, we decided to produce original shows with positive stories and morals. The bad guys don't get hurt, but they either remain a bad guy or reconsider things, to think, 'Maybe I could have fun, too, if I change.' "

The company offers educational programming to schools and invites high school students to volunteer their acting talents "as an alternative to unhealthy after-school activities," adds Van Landingham.

On Saturday and Aug. 24, the company will present another free, open-air production, "A Princess of Quite a Lot," about a materialistic princess who is improved by the power of love, at the center court stage at the University Center. Call (714) 721-3356.

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