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Audience Gets a Minor but Celebrity Role in Murder Mystery

THEATER NOTES

June 12, 1997|TODD EVERETT | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

C.D. Veasel, the self-proclaimed world's greatest director, has assembled Hollywood's biggest names for a publicity stunt--er, party--to launch his film, "Love's Foolish Parade." Not too long after he's introduced his cast, one of them becomes the victim in Patricia Harris-Smith's clever, "The Silent Movie Murder," now having its world premiere in a banquet room at the Thousand Oaks Inn. Dinner is served, with the audience standing in for filmdom's elite.

Directed by Walt O'Brien, the show features many faces familiar to patrons of the Moorpark Melodrama: Damien Gravino as Veasel, Kathi Janca Gravino as vamp-in-chief Louise Loveless, William Shupe as dashing swashbuckler Edward Manley III, and George Lindsey Jr. as baggy-pants comic Harold Joy.

Also appearing are Leigh Sandness as aging ingenue Clara Simpleton and Geoff Mulch as megaphone-toting singer Rudy Ballentine. There's plenty of low comedy, a couple of songs and a fair amount of non-embarrassing interaction with the audience. It's all good fun, fine for families, and especially recommended to groups.

* "The Silent Movie Murder" continues Sat., 8 p.m., through July at Thousand Oaks Inn, 75 W. Thousand Oaks Blvd. (next to DuPar's), Thousand Oaks. Tickets at $35 include the show, dinner with a choice of entrees and soft drinks. For reservations (mandatory) or information, call 492-2101.

*

No Great Surprise: There's a moment in Frederick Knott's classic suspense drama, "Wait Until Dark," when members of the audience often jump in their seats, as if at the sound of an unexpected pistol crack. That moment isn't the only reason to see the play, but it is--in movie parlance--the "money shot."

The scene isn't particularly difficult to set up; Knott's script does most of the work. But the moment is nearly lost in the production by Oxnard's Elite Theater Company.

Otherwise, theirs is a respectable version, introducing a couple of actors to the Ventura County scene under Christine Laird's direction. The play (involving a blind woman, three thuggish con men and a doll stuffed with heroin) moves along quickly and wittily.

Jean Hall plays Susy, married to photographer Sam (Glen Heppner) and living in a small Greenwich Village apartment. Bill Brandt, Peter J. Terry and Ronald Pusieski play the three villains, convinced that the doll has wound up in Susy's possession. Susy, as it happens, isn't so sure, but her life is at stake.

The rest is for you to find out. Perhaps by this weekend, the staging problem will have been corrected and you, too, can jump out of your chair.

* "Wait Until Dark!" continues through July 12 at Petit Playhouse, 730 South B St., Oxnard. Performances are at 8:30 p.m. Fri.-Sat.; 2 p.m. Sun.. Tickets are $10; $8, seniors. Visa and MasterCard accepted. For reservations or information, call 483-5118.

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