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YEAR IN REVIEW / 1996 | In the World of

Theater

December 29, 1996

NUDE, NUDE, TOTALLY NUDE: The year began with David Dillon's "Party," the all-male striptease show, whose idea of a finale was a nude-dancing tribute to Karen Carpenter. The year ends with Terrence McNally's "Love! Valour! Compassion!," the play that actually had the New Yorker discussing the penis sizes of actors. In between, we had the dubious honor of seeing Nicol Williamson ("Jack: A Night on the Town With John Barrymore") in tights and an uncomfortable Howard Hesseman ("Quills") nude, nude, totally nude (which, by the way, is the name of Andrea Martin's one-woman show, in which she appears only mock nude, in a flesh-colored bodysuit).

*

MOST GRATUITOUS NUDITY: "In the Moonlight, Eddie" at the Pasadena Playhouse. In one scene, an aging glamour puss played by Ann Wedgeworth, upon learning from a friend's young son of his affection, promptly un-drapes a breast.

*

BEST USE OF NUDITY: In Diana Son's play "Boy" at La Jolla Playhouse, Michi Barall plays a girl whose parents raise her as a boy and who everybody agrees to believe is a boy--including the audience--until the boy undresses.

*

HOW TO LOSE FRIENDS AND BADLY INFLUENCE SUBSCRIBERS: Who can forget the reaction of the Pasadena Playhouse to its mega-hit "Sisterella"? The day the reviews came out, the announced ticket price of $13.50-$33.50 went up to $55-$55. Theatergoers reacted with angry calls and letters. The theater's reply: That's still $20 less than the show will cost on Broadway (although that opening has yet to be announced). Said one former subscriber, in a letter to The Times: It's not the economy, stupid. It's greed.

*

NO TIME FOR TONYS: Zoe Caldwell was brilliant as Maria Callas in Terrence McNally's "Master Class." She had her students quaking as she sized them up, just as she made some members of the audience nervous when she looked them over and demanded, "Get a look." But what had Zoe Caldwell shaking? It was the horrible, scary Tony Award telecast, in which winners were ruthlessly cut off if they went over 20-some seconds in their acceptance speeches. The men who run Lincoln Center looked as if they were performing a novelty act as they took turns rattling off sentences faster than Danny Kaye reciting "Tchaikovsky." It was the show that made the Julie Andrews nomination refusal look smart.

*

MEMO TO SPALDING GRAY: SHUT UP, ALREADY: And last, that lovable scamp Spalding Gray, whose art is self-revelation via monologue, came up with a doozy. In "A Slippery Slope," he tells of finally marrying his longtime director-collaborator-girlfriend Renee Shafransky and at the same time stepping up a passionate affair with a girlfriend. When the girlfriend gets pregnant and refuses to consider an abortion, Gray recalls how he rolled on the ground in agony. Gee, we felt so bad for him.

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