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THEATER BEAT

'Rose Tattoo' Makes an Engaging Mark

November 01, 1996|F. KATHLEEN FOLEY

An invigorating blend of melodrama and farce, "The Rose Tattoo" is one of Tennessee Williams' most bombastically undisciplined potboilers.

As entertaining as it is florid, the play won a Tony in 1951 and was filmed a few years later with Burt Lancaster and Anna Magnani. This production at the Hudson launches the inaugural season of Creative Theatre Group.

Director Deborah LaVine channels Williams' histrionic flood without impeding the play's emotional momentum--a feat considering the play's wild fluctuations in tone--but is sometimes heavy-handed in the crowd scenes. Solid central performances and superb production values (especially the detailed set by Lisa Waltz) round out Williams' tragicomic entertainment.

Undaunted by the shade of Magnani, Michelle Danner is alternately tempestuous and hilarious as the moody Sicilian widow Serafina, whose true tragedy, apart from losing her husband, is being born before Prozac. Nimble and naturalistic, Rob Estes elicits roaring laughter as Alvaro, the lonely Italian trucker who wheedles his way into Serafina's bed. Carol Kline and Tamara Zook are four-star hoots as sex-mad old maids Bessie and Flora. This briskly engaging evening is marred only by a few unwieldy Italian accents--as well as Estes' prosthetic ears, which would upstage the resurrected Bernhardt.

* "The Rose Tattoo," Hudson Theatre, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Ends Nov. 24. $20. (213) 660-8587. Running time: 2 hours, 40 minutes.

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