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Stage Lites

Bologna and Taylor penned a dozen short comedy scenes for 'Allways.'

June 12, 1997|T.H. McCULLOH | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Diets go light in the summertime, and theater has a tendency to do the same thing. In the case of a current production at American Renegade Theatre, opening Friday night and running in repertory with "Cracks in the Sidewalk," the fare is practically frothy.

The evening is called "Love Allways," a collection of 12 short comedy scenes written by Joseph Bologna and Renee Taylor. They're the couple who made a name writing and starring in their 1968 Broadway hit "Lovers and Other Strangers." They're currently in New York with "Bermuda Avenue Triangle," which had a long, successful run in Los Angeles in the past couple of years.

"Love Allways," in fact, is co-produced by their son, Gabriel Bologna, who is in New York holding his folks' hands during their opening at the Promenade Theatre. Meanwhile, co-producer David Billotti--fresh from Chicago, where he founded the Blue Collar Theatre Company--has been readying the local production, with T.J. Castronovo, a director of Renegade's "Cracks in the Sidewalk."

Neither Billotti nor Castronovo apologize for the presence of sitcom material, the Bolognas' specialty, at the usually more venturesome Renegade. In fact, they say it isn't like ordinary sitcom at all.

"I don't know if these could be considered sitcoms in the way television does them now," Castronovo says. "In 'Bermuda Avenue Triangle,' they wrote a lot of one-liners that are very funny. In these plays, there aren't one-liners as much as the feelings beneath the characters' reactions to each other."

Billotti agrees that the scenes "are like the older-style sitcoms, where the humor comes from the situations, not from a setup and a punch line."

Castronovo, who came in contact with the Bolognas when he directed one of Gabriel Bologna's plays, says the scenes deal with the truthful things that happen in life, between people who are in love.

"People will see themselves in these situations with these lovers," Castronovo says. "They fight and argue and discuss their marriage, or whatever it is, and this has happened to everyone in their life."

One of the unique things about the scenes, Billotti explains, "is that there's a certain amount of recklessness to the honesty, and a certain amount of bravery to the honesty. They're not afraid to lay it out there, as it is, in the white spotlight. I was in an argument the other day, and halfway through the argument, I realized that I was doing what I'm producing on stage. I was living what Joe Bologna and Renee Taylor wrote."

What they wrote are glances at love played out in various relationships. The original evening had 14 scenes in it, but for this production, the authors have held back a couple of them. The reason? They'll be using those scenes in a Los Angeles production in which they'll appear later. Billotti is happy with the even dozen.

"The bottom line," he says, "is that they gave us a world premiere. Well, 12/14ths of a world premiere is still a world premiere."

* "Love Allways," American Renegade Theatre, 5303 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood. Thur. and Fri., 8 p.m. Indefinitely. $12. (818) 763-4430.

*

Summer Wheels: For a time, Lawrence of Arabia and Noel Coward were close friends. One reason was that Lawrence loved to run up to London to rehearsals, to "see the wheels go 'round."

It isn't often that theatergoers get a chance to watch this machinery at work, but two Valley theaters provide an opportunity each summer. One is Interact Theatre Company, where "Interactivity," to which they devote a week of their lineup, starts Tuesday with the "Guest Writer Series." And starting Friday, Theatre West begins its "WestWorks97" series.

Interact's "Guest Writers Series," produced by Joel Anderson and Denise Bessette, is an attempt to bring in some people from outside the company, a sort of outreach, they say, to help promote more original material.

Bessette says: "We wanted to raise the stakes a bit and look for material beyond our front door."

Two of the seven readings in the nightly series are Rita Nachtmann's "How I Spent My Life's Vacation," which has just won the PEN West's literary award for drama, and off-Broadway's current success "Fear Itself," written and directed by Eugene Lee, author of "East Texas Hot Links." Among the new faces at Interact for the readings are actors Zack Galligan, Mary Dixie Carter (Dixie Carter's daughter), Alfre Woodard and director Deborah LaVine. For more information, call the Interact Hotline at (818) 773-7862.

Theatre West's John Gallogly contends that in the last few years years nearly 20% of their fully staged "WestWorks" became mainstage productions for the group, while 50% went on to successful runs at other venues.

"It's to give an artist a whack at something they really want to do and that they've moved by themselves beyond any sort of workshop situation," says Gallogly. "That's why we exist."

Three evenings of theater make up the biweekly series. For schedule information, call (213) 851-7977.

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