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* STAGE REVIEW

Strong Ambience and Game Actors Help 'Nightingale and the Rose'

April 30, 1998|F. KATHLEEN FOLEY

"The Nightingale and the Rose," at the 24th Street Theatre, uses the Oscar Wilde fable of sacrificial love as a leaping-off point for a period piece set on a riverboat in Prohibition New Orleans.

Thanks to Seanne Farmer's set, Robert Velasquez's costumes, Ruth Judkowitz's sound design and Kathi O'Donohue's wonderfully evocative lighting, the production has a fervid Pirates of the Caribbean ambience that is great fun. Unfortunately, the play itself, a collaborative effort by the Glorious Repertory Company under the guidance of dramaturge and lyricist Erick Melton, is as muddy as the Mississippi.

The central story line revolves around an interracial love and--as in Wilde's story--the supreme sacrifice made in that love's name. The steamy Southern cast of characters, complete with an (unseen) resident haunt, an evil sheriff and an oversexed gold-digger, seem straight out of Tennessee Williams rather than Wilde, and the plot wends its way along a meandering course. However, the actors chomp the scenery in fine fettle, and director Debbie Devine cranks the action to a satisfyingly histrionic pitch, ensuring that an amusing time is had by all.

BE THERE

"The Nightingale and the Rose," 24th Street Theatre, 1117 W. 24th St., Los Angeles. Fridays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Ends May 17. $12 for adults; $6 for children. (213) 745-6516. Running time: 1 hour, 35 minutes.

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