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THEATER: Ventura County | NOTES

Too-Cozy 'Cabaret'

Production dilutes the Nazi menace but has its merits.

September 25, 1997|TODD EVERETT | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Thousand Oaks has a reputation for squeaky cleanliness, culture-wise. Perhaps the Santa Susana Repertory Company is protecting that reputation with this production of "Cabaret," now playing at the Civic Arts Plaza's Forum Theatre.

The rise of National Socialism in Germany is seen through the eyes of an American writer, in love with an English singer who works at a sleazy Berlin nightclub. This, though, is a version you can take the kids to.

While the Nazis here aren't exactly lovable, their presence is diluted considerably. By the end of the show, the Kit Kat Klub--here shown throughout as only slightly more decadent and menacing than a Disney revue--should be festooned with swastika banners and populated with uniformed troops, like something out of "Triumph of the Will."

And it's doubtful that when Joe Masteroff, Fred Ebb and John Kander were creating the musical, they were thinking that Sally Bowles, the naive and morally loose showgirl, should be played as if by Julie Andrews. Which seems to be what director Allan Hunt and actress Rhae Ann Theriault had in mind here.

There's more: The grotesque, anti-Semitic ending of "If You Could See Her" is virtually thrown away. And when someone throws a rock in the Jewish shop owner's window, it's no more sinister than--as the man (Ciro Barbaro) nervously explains to his non-Jewish fiancee (Linda Stiegler)--a prank by some neighborhood kids. This is a depiction of Kristallnacht, for Pete's sake, when so many Jewish-owned windows were shattered that the streets were glistening with pieces of glass.

Dilution aside, this production has its merits. The actors are up to the task, including Don Lucas as the Kit Kat Klub's master of ceremonies, Paul Hartel as the writer, Trevor Olsen as a German "businessman" and Nancy Osborne as a prostitute.

The Klub's band is an all-female quintet led by Diann Alexander. An instrumental version of the title number featuring Ann Patterson on soprano saxophone and June Satton on trombone is one of the show's highlights.

Rick Rhodes is musical director and Dani Brown choreographed, with costumes, set design and lighting by George T. Mitchell, Mike Roehr and Gary Mintz, respectively.

* "Cabaret" continues through Oct. 12 at Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza's Forum Theatre, 2100 E. Thousand Oaks Blvd., Thousand Oaks. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays; 8:30 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays; and 2:30 p.m. Sundays. Tickets range from $20-$25, at the Plaza box office, or through Ticketmaster at 583-8700 or (213) 480-3232.

'Brighton Beach Memoirs': Over at the Simi Valley Cultural Arts Center, the Clayworks Theatre Company, which presented a credible "Hamlet" in July, turns its talents to Neil Simon with a version of "Brighton Beach Memoirs."

The strong point here is the cast, with relative newcomer Aurick Canete impressive as Simon surrogate Eugene Jerome; Jason A. Narvy as his brother, Stanley; and director Paul Schrier as their father. Jan Glasband plays the boys' mother (spelled this weekend by Kathryn Dippong). Living somewhat uneasily with the Jeromes are the mother's sister (Joanne Lara) and her two teenage daughters (Robin Bologna and the precocious Kristin Neumann). You'll laugh, you'll cry . . .

* "Brighton Beach Memoirs" concludes Sunday at Simi Valley Cultural Arts Center, 3050 Los Angeles Ave. Performances are at 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 2:30 and 7 p.m. Sunday. Tickets for all shows are $15; $12, seniors and students; and $8, children. Call 581-9940.

Parody at Moorpark College: Moorpark College's first show of the year, "Bullshot Crummond," is a parody of low-budget British detective movies of the '30s--a genre that's long overdue for this sort of treatment. Think of what might happen if animation studio chief Jay Ward were to put Russian spies Boris and Natasha into a Dudley Do-Right plot. Only, the spies here are Germans, played by William Wilson and Rosemary DeYoe; and Bullshot isn't a Mountie, but an English crime-solver (Dave Mason). Or something like that.

Pretty nearly everyone plays multiple roles under Les Weider's direction, with Sean Collier appearing as at least seven characters, most sounding as though their jaws had been welded at half-mast. The hilarity isn't as intense as the authors probably intended, and a running anatomical gag could embarrass parents if asked by their children to explain. Pacing and such may well improve during the show's run, though, and the cast is nothing if not energetic.

* "Bullshot Crummond" continues through Oct. 3 at Moorpark College Performing Arts Center's Studio Theater on Collins Drive off the Simi Freeway in Moorpark. Performances are at 1:30 this afternoon and Oct. 1-2; at 7:30 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays. Tickets for all performances are $7; $6, students; and $4, seniors, with group rates available. Call 378-1485.

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