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FAMILY

'Jungle Book' Kicks Off Serendipity Season

September 24, 1996|LYNNE HEFFLEY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Mowgli, Baloo, Shere Khan and other "Jungle Book" characters are the latest inhabitants of the small, cave-like, black box Burbank Little Theatre on the grounds of George Izay Park, where Kipling's classic marks the beginning of Serendipity Theatre Co.'s 1996-97 season.

If overly long pauses and some dialogue stumbles didn't weaken the dynamic, and if the animal costumes--mystique-lacking leotards and hoods with ears--were more inspiring, this would be a fine introduction to a staged children's classic.

Indeed, the intelligent adaptation by Salah Abdul-Wahid, and strong performances from young Nicolas Cowan as Mowgli and adult actor Annalisa Erickson, who serves triple duty as Mother Wolf, Kaa the python and Messua, Mowgli's adoptive human mother, nearly overcome the flaws.

Beginning with Mowgli's adoption into the wolf pack and his friendship with Baloo (Denys Gawronski), Bagheera (Mark Conley) and Akela (Lance LaShelle, who also plays Father Wolf), and ending with his coming-of-age return to the village of man, the action, directed by Tony Sanders, covers Mowgli's kidnapping by the Monkey King (Mark Barrett), his confrontation with Shere Khan (a sometimes over-the-top Patricia Ayame Thomson) and his besting of the Red Dogs.

Tony Mole's lighting design is a plus, enhancing Cowan's modest but serviceable jungle set with pools of green, night skies and sunshine.

* "Jungle Book," Burbank Little Theatre, George Izay Park, 1100 W. Clark St., Saturdays, 1 p.m.; Sundays, 1 and 4 p.m. through Oct. 20. Not recommended for under age 6. $8 (ages 17 and under) to $14. (818) 557-0505. Running time: 90 minutes.

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