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STAGE | THEATER NOTES

Father Figure

Comedy-drama at Actors Alley explores the uncertain relationship between a man and his teenage son.

March 20, 1997|T.H. McCULLOH | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Life has always been full of challenges, but modern society specializes in a few of its own. One is the job of single parenting. This is a task generally associated with women, but there are plenty of single fathers out there, too.

That's the journey that Fred Beringer, the main character in "Far From the Tree," takes in Louis Felder's comedy-drama at Actors Alley. There's a knock at the door, and suddenly his 16-year-old son is moving in.

Felder says the idea came from a similar incident in his own life.

"My own 16-year-old son came to live with me. He was a rebellious kid, and I think I frustrated him because I never got mad at him. I found him hilarious. Everything he did, even his rebellion . . . was mind-expanding for me. I just enjoyed his company. He has since gone bad," Felder said with an ironic chuckle. "He's in advertising."

Tony-nominated actress Marcia Rodd, director of the production, smiled at Felder's joke. "That's his life," she said. "The play is not quite so friendly."

The father in the play, Felder went on to explain, is, in a way, a rebel himself. He starts taking on some of the attitudes of the son. They sort of change places.

Which, said Felder, is not that uncommon with divorced fathers, many of whom have problems taking responsibility for themselves, let alone dealing with children. "A lot of guys," he said, "are single, and they're kind of wild. They get married and domesticated. Then, when they get divorced, they go feral again. A lot of guys almost revert to high school age."

Which makes it an interesting dilemma for those watching the play, said Rodd. "We want the audience to say, 'You know, this is a big responsibility to take on. This is a troublemaker, this kid. The father does have his life kind of like he likes it,' " she said. "So it isn't all straws in the wind. People will identify first with one, then with the other. They'll go back and forth, we hope."

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Down the Same Alley: If "Far From the Tree" is a male journey of discovery, "Manhattan Single" goes in the opposite direction. It's described as one woman's journey toward self-discovery after a lifetime of being someone's daughter, wife or friend.

Mark Anthony McNease's comedy about life on New York's Upper West Side is the second production of Actors Alley, Too, and opens March 31. Actors Alley, Too--an adjunct of Actors Alley--provides free theater for the community.

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Twilight Zone: A few weeks ago this column reported that Interact Theatre Company was about to buy the property it has occupied for the past few years, previously operated by Theatre Exchange. The money is in hand, the papers are ready, but Interact has hit a bureaucratic Bermuda Triangle.

Interact's board president, Leon Russom, explained, "The snag is that there was a zoning decision in 1971 that the area is residential. However, there was a theater there prior to 1971. It was the Pact Theatre. We need evidence that that theater existed. So anyone who acted there, or attended a performance there, if they could contact me, that would be a great help." Get out those old programs and contact Russom at (818) 901-6988.

BE THERE

"Far From the Tree," Actors Alley at El Portal, 5269 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood. Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 and 7 p.m. Ends May 4. $14-$16. "Manhattan Single," Mon.-Wed., 8 p.m. Ends April 30. Free. (818) 508-4200.

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