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Summer Splash / Theater

A Most Dramatic Season

Even aside from the expected blockbusters, you can expect plenty of theater.

May 22, 1997|DON SHIRLEY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Beyond the biggest events of the theatrical summer--the musicals "Ragtime" and "Rent" and the new Neil Simon play "Proposals"--plenty of other productions look as if they might make a splash on a smaller scale.

The Mark Taper Forum will present three plays that are new to Southern California: first, "The Street of the Sun" (Tuesday) and "Mules" (June 17), completing the already launched New Theatre for Now festival and, later, "Nine Armenians" (July 24).

A previous Taper play, "Master Class," will return to town on June 20 with a new star--Faye Dunaway--and a different venue, the Doolittle. The actress' fans who were hoping to see her in "Sunset Boulevard"--from which she was dumped shortly before her scheduled 1994 appearance--will finally get to behold La Dunaway in person.

Cornerstone Theater plans to take over L.A.'s central downtown library--or at least five spaces in and around it--for "Candude," opening June 12. This adaptation of "Candide," by Tracy Young of Actors' Gang fame, is the story of a naive young man who's forced to abandon his library home after the 1986 fire and ventures into Greater L.A. The cast will include 25 employees of the library, the L.A. Police Department and the U.S. Postal Service in addition to three of Cornerstone's professional actors in the leads.

In Shakespeare territory, Los Angeles Women's Shakespeare Co. will tackle the sexual issues of "Measure for Measure" with an all-female cast, opening Wednesday in Culver City. Shakespeare Festival/LA will build an island in the pool at the downtown Water Court for its production of "The Tempest," opening July 11. Three different "Comedy of Errors" productions will open within a month of each other--in Orange, Solvang and San Diego.

When Shakespeare's "As You Like It" opens the Theatricum Botanicum's renovated theater in Topanga on June 8, the title may seem especially appropriate for those who griped about the venue's previous seating accommodations--old, lopsided railroad ties. This rustic amphitheater will now seat 175 on new wooden benches, with backs, and another 125 on level stone terraces.

Ionesco is the playwright of the summer at Stages in Hollywood. Revivals of "The Lesson," "Rhinoceros," "The Bald Soprano" "The King Dies (Exit the King)" and "Hunger and Thirst" will join the current bilingual productions of "The Chairs."

The only brand-new musical scheduled to open at a major venue is "The Tin Pan Alley Rag," opening July 20 at Pasadena Playhouse. Composers Scott Joplin and Irving Berlin are also the main characters.

La Mirada Theatre will conveniently open a revival of the Caribbean musical "Once on This Island" on June 6, a week before "Ragtime" at the Shubert, so theatergoers can compare two different samples of the work of composer Stephen Flaherty and lyricist Lynn Ahrens.

Two civic culture palaces will host intimate musical revues in their smaller theaters: "The World Goes Round," an International City Theatre production at Long Beach's Center Theater (June 27), and "Six Women With Brain Death . . . or Expiring Minds Want to Know," a Theater League production at Thousand Oaks' Forum Theatre (Aug. 8).

Another revue, "Smokey Joe's Cafe," will open at the Wilshire Theatre on June 24, its first return to the area since its pre-Broadway engagement. And fans of the Livent "Show Boat" revival can see a cast at Orange County Performing Arts Center (Aug. 26) that's expected to be completely different from the one seen earlier this year at the Ahmanson Theatre.

Finally, those who follow L.A.'s most celebrated home-grown playwright, Justin Tanner, might get a new Tanner comedy this summer, called "Coyote Woman," although Tanner isn't committing to a date just yet. The place, however, will surprise no one: his home base at the Cast Theatre.

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