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THEATER: Ventura County | THEATER NOTES

Hard-Boiled Drama

Ojai troupe performs a pair of stories by James Cain.

June 05, 1997|TODD EVERETT | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

During the 1930s and '40s, James M. Cain was one of the premier exponents of hard-boiled, pulp fiction. His most famous works, "Double Indemnity" and "The Postman Always Rings Twice," were adapted into hit films.

"Lust, Lies and Murder," at Theater 150 in Ojai, pairs adaptations of two lesser-known Cain stories, "Dead Man" and "Baby in the Icebox." It's an evening of sharply etched dialogue, with performances to match.

Adapted and directed by Ellen Sandler, the double feature originally was produced in 1992 by the Mark Taper Forum's literary cabaret; two of the actors in that production--Steve Rankin and Theater 150 co-founder Dwier Brown--appear here as well, in the roles they originated in Los Angeles.

Theater 150 operates out of a converted storefront on the east end of Ojai. "Lust, Lies and Murder" is its first production with an extended--well, three-weekend--run, concluding Saturday.

Behind a typewriter, James Lashly, as Cain, narrates "Dead Man," the author's tip of the hat to Edgar Allan Poe's "The Tell-Tale Heart." In "Baby in the Icebox," Brown is a character who relays the story in flashback.

The evening's centerpiece is "Baby in the Icebox," a wryly witty tale of a wife (Kim Maxwell-Brown) who is smarter than her loser husband (Rankin). The husband has decided to improve his financial situation by training and exhibiting wild cats.

The cast--all professionals with numerous stage and screen credits--had scripts in hand Friday night; the effect was less jarring than one might imagine. Dwier Brown's set and lighting design make much of little: a couple of packing crates filling several functions as furniture. Jeff Evans supplies musical background on mandolin and guitar.

* "Lust, Lies and Murder" closes Sat. at Theater 150, 918 E. Ojai Ave., Ojai. Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m. $15. Reservations: (805) 525-1212.

*

CASTING CALL: The Elite Theatre Company will hold auditions from 7 to 9 p.m. Monday and Tuesday for its first musical, "Noel & Gertie," a revue of material by English composer Noel Coward. In addition to one man and one woman, each mid-20s to mid-40s, to play Coward and singer Gertrude Lawrence, artistic director Judy Heiliger is looking for a director, musical director and keyboard player. Auditions will be at Petit Playhouse, 730 South B St., Oxnard. For information, call Heiliger at (805) 525-6219.

The Conejo Players will hold auditions in late June for two plays: Neil Simon's comedy, "Rumors," and the backstage parody "Ruthless--the Musical."

"Rumors" will run Thur.-Sat. Aug. 29-Sept. 27, directed by Don Pearlman. Auditions will be June 22 at 2:30 p.m. and June 23 and 24 at 7:30 p.m. at the Players Theater, 351 S. Moorpark Road, Thousand Oaks. For information, call producer Marianne Robertson at (805) 495-6510.

"Ruthless--the Musical," a Conejo Afternoon Theater production, will run weekend matinees, Sept. 7-27. Auditions will be June 29 at 7:30 p.m. at the Arts Council Center, 482 Greenmeadow Ave., Thousand Oaks. Call producer Aaron Van Etten, (805) 495-4281.

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