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THEATER | THEATER REVIEW

A Wacky Threesome

Witty dialogue, good acting get lots of laughs in trio of 'Short Plays.'

May 01, 1997|ROBERT KOEHLER | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Only last week in this column we noted how curious it was to find two short plays by the same author on the same set (at Actor's Workout) so mismatched. It happens. It also happens that three plays by three authors on three completely different sets can fit together so well that it feels as if they were meant for each other.

At Raven Playhouse, the talented Wildebeest Theatre Company achieves this rare magic with devilish wit. Combining two inventive pieces by well-established playwriting wags--David Ives' "The Philadelphia" and Christopher Durang's "For Whom the Southern Belle Tolls"--with a new, equally funny piece, "Woffned and Cleopatra," by company member Douglas Jacobs, "Three Short Plays" becomes three views through one askew looking glass.

"The Philadelphia" immediately establishes the evening's unreal, smartly wacky tone, as Mark (Brian D. Evans) complains to pal Al (Keith D. Robinson) that he can't find anything he wants. Al instantly realizes that Mark is having "a Philadelphia," the phenomenon in which if you want something, you can't get it. The solution? Ask for just the opposite, and you'll get what you want.

Also absurd, only more in the Monty Python vein, is Jacobs' "Woffned," which spoofs Queen Cleo's (Tyrie McCulley) autocratic rule and gender-flipping. Here the tough woman bosses around the eunuch-like men.

Directed by Janice Paxson with breathless energy, this ensemble shows they have the rep stuff, switching roles and costumes and attitudes with fluid precision--the whole time letting us in on the joke.

Durang fans are in for a real treat with "Southern Belle," in which he puts aside his usual world of twisted Catholic psyches for an acid spoof of Tennessee Williams' "The Glass Menagerie."

Robinson directs his fellow Wildebeests to underplay and not spoof up what's already outrageous. Like every other move in this show, it's a smart one.

BE THERE

"Three Short Plays" at Raven Playhouse, 5233 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood. Wed.-Thur., 8 p.m., through May 8. $8. (818) 766-2693.

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