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VALLEY WEEKEND | BEST BETS

December 05, 1996

WEEKEND: To Be or Not to Be

Dennis Weaver is not a rube, but he sometimes plays one on TV.

And he thinks that's part of the fun of doing his one-man show "Irreverent Shakespeare" this weekend and next at the Group Repertory Theatre.

"Once you get typecast in this town, it's hard to break out," he said. "So I used this to do my thing."

Weaver knows that most people don't associate him with Shakespeare.

"I've been working on it since the University of Oklahoma," said Weaver, who is now 72. "Shakespeare has been a thing for me for a long time--his words, his passion, the way he phrases things."

"Irreverent Shakespeare" is Weaver's answer to the question: "What would Shakespeare say if he were alive today?" Weaver has changed some of the Bard's words, and he knows some people will accuse him of fooling around with the classics, but he figures he's not the first. Even famed Elizabethan actor Richard Burbage probably changed Shakespeare's words, because that's what actors do, Weaver said.

"Hey, I even changed some of the 'McCloud' scripts," Weaver said, tongue pressed firmly against cheek.

Weaver was a track-and-field star at Oklahoma university. One of his teammates was Lonny Chapman, who went on to become the artistic director of Group Repertory. From Oklahoma, Weaver went to New York City and the Great White Way. He was accepted into the famed Actors Studio, where he was classmates with the likes of Paul Newman, Anthony Quinn, Shelley Winters, Jack Warden and others.

But Hollywood beckoned and he followed. And in 1955, he was cast as limping Deputy Chester Goode in the new television version of "Gunsmoke."

Weaver has worked steadily over the last 40 years, more in television than in films. He also has the distinction of being the star of Steven Spielberg's first directorial effort, the TV movie "Duel."

Besides acting, Weaver has also been an activist, working for humanitarian and ecological causes. Proceeds from "Irreverent Shakespeare" will benefit Group Rep, which will use the money to renovate and expand their lighting equipment.

* Dennis Weaver performs "Irreverent Shakespeare" at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 3 p.m. Sunday at Group Repertory Theatre, 10900 Burbank Blvd., North Hollywood. Tickets are $20. Ends Dec. 15. Call (818) 769-PLAY.

HOLIDAYS: Dueling 'Carols'

Valley theatergoers will have not one, not two, not three, but four productions of Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" to choose from this holiday season.

Continuing a 32-year tradition, Glendale Centre Theatre presents its annual holiday production of the Dickens classic. This year, it's accompanied by a second Glendale production, staged by the classical theater company A Noise Within at the Alex Theater.

The Bitter Truth Theatre in North Hollywood will stage the Frederick Hoffman adaptation of the story of Scrooge, the Cratchits and the ghosts of Christmas.

And finally, Pierce College is presenting a musical adaptation of the classic holiday tale.

* "A Christmas Carol" at 8 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, 2 p.m. Saturday, and 2 and 7 p.m. Sunday at the Alex Theatre, 216 N. Brand Blvd., Glendale. Ends Dec. 15. Tickets are $24-28 general, $16-$20 students and seniors. Call (818) 546-1924.

* "A Christmas Carol" at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, 2 and 7:30 p.m. Sunday at Pierce College, 6201 Winnetka Ave., Woodland Hills. Additional performances Dec. 12, 14 and 15. Tickets are $8. Call (818) 719-6488.

* "A Christmas Carol" at 8 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays, 3 p.m. Saturday matinee at the Glendale Centre Theatre, 324 N. Orange St. Ends Dec. 23. Tickets are $13 (Mondays-Thursdays and matinees) and $15.75 (Fridays and Saturdays). After Dec. 14, tickets will be $15 and $17.50, respectively. Call (818) 244-8481.

* "A Christmas Carol" at 7 p.m. Wednesday-Sunday at The Bitter Truth Theatre, 11050 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood. Ends Dec. 22. Tickets are $10 general, $6 children. Call (818) 755-7900.

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