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FOR THE KIDS

Fire, Flood and War Add Up to an Odd Comedy

November 05, 1998|RICHARD KAHLENBERG | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Kristin Kundert-Gibbs, director of Thornton Wilder's "The Skin of Our Teeth" at Cal Lutheran University, wanted to make one thing perfectly clear: "I'm taking my 4-year-old to see it," she said. "It's definitely a show you can take your kids to."

The play, a 1942 Pulitzer prize-winning comedy by the writer of the familiar "Our Town," contains glimpses of Americana worthy of being set in stained glass and installed in buildings all over the CLU campus.

It's also very funny, thanks to Wilder's remarkable ability to be wacky even while being wise on a serious theme--in this case, the author's faith in humanity.

Besides the humor, there are other reasons to view this as a kid-friendly production, said Kundert-Gibbs, particularly if the kids in your household have taken a fancy to reruns of classic TV sitcoms. The director has created a look for her production, which opens tonight at the Preus-Brandt Forum, based on 1950s-era TV shows such as "Father Knows Best."

This show will have none of the controversy associated with last fall's production of "Vinegar Tom," also directed by Kundert-Gibbs. That play, about a witch hunt in 17th century England, dealt with issues of sexuality and violence.

"This year's play is about the struggle to avoid becoming a slacker," she said.

Indeed. Onstage, a family copes with fire, pestilence and war. They're seen getting ready for a flood. Remember, this is a comedy.

"I've made it (take place in) Thousand Oaks," said the director, who is hoping to make clear to the audience that something written in 1942 has relevance for folks living here at the end of the century. "The first act is set in 1955, the second 1969 and the third leads up to the grunge music era."

But she hasn't altered the message, which, she said, is "how important it is to learn from our mistakes (and) keep struggling to have those moments of epiphany."

BE THERE

"The Skin of Our Teeth" presented by Cal Lutheran University drama department. Show times: 8 p.m. today-Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday and Nov. 15; 9 p.m. Nov. 14. Preus-Brandt Forum, 60 W. Olson Road, Thousand Oaks. Tickets $8; free to CLU students. (805) 493-3415.

Additional live-theater event, recommended for high school kids, "Fall '98 One Act Play Festival," 10 works directed by Moorpark College students on the theme "The Death of Romantic Units Always Makes Me Laugh." First series of five plays: 7:30 tonight, Saturday and Nov. 13; second series Friday and Nov. 12 and 14. Marathon of all 10 Wednesday at 1:30 p.m. College Performing Arts Center 7075 Campbell Road, Moorpark; all tickets $5. (805) 378-1485.

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