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THEATER NOTES

Dark Side of Fantasy

New version of 'Pinocchio' is more a cautionary tale for parents.

October 08, 1998|TODD EVERETT | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

A new musical production of "Pinocchio" plays at Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza on Friday and Sunday. But don't bring young kids, expecting a Disney-like version. For one thing, in this "Pinocchio" the cricket dies.

"Pinocchio" is one of three shows at the Forum Theatre planned for Gold Coast Plays' Playwrights Fund-Raising Weekend and benefiting the Gold Coast Performing Arts Assn.'s professional theater company.

The other two, presented Saturday afternoon and evening, are products of this summer's Ojai Playwrights Conference.

Gold Coast Plays' newly appointed artist director, Stephanie Angelini, began writing "Pinocchio" two years ago, while running the Gold Coast Theater Conservatory, a program for children that she still heads.

She and writing partner Scott Guy began reading translations of Carlo Collodi's original story.

"Then," she said, "we discovered that the story of Pinocchio was not especially for children. It's very dark and directed at parents. It advocates taking a strong role in raising your children, who will begin to mirror society."

Angelini is no stranger to such darkness. An earlier collaboration with Guy, "Kensington Gardens," is based on James M. Barrie's early "Peter Pan" stories. "The fairies are terrifying," she said. "They actually kill a child."

That play has been a finalist in several festivals and was awarded a workshop production in England, she said.

In its world of fantasy, "Pinocchio" uses a variety of masks, both human and animal. While it's "violent and scary," Angelini said, "it's no scarier than the Disney version of 'Hercules.' And when it gets too dark and scary, we have three commedia dell'arte clowns who come out and lighten things up."

The show, with music composed by Nick DeGregorio, has been in workshops for over a year, Angelini said, and gained its production slot when an event scheduled for Saturday didn't come through.

She said Dale Wasserman, Gold Coast board member and playwright of "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" and "Man of La Mancha," read the script and said it was too large to produce. "We want to prove him wrong," she added.

* The Playwright's Fund-Raising Weekend at Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza's Forum Theatre, 2100 E. Thousand Oaks Blvd. "Pinocchio" plays Friday at 8:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2:30 p.m.; $18. "A Thimble of Smoke" plays Saturday only at 4:30 p.m.; "A Devil Inside" is Saturday only at 8:30 p.m. $15 each. A weekend pass for all three is $40. Tickets are available through Ticketmaster at 583-8700 or at Civic Arts Plaza box office. 497-8616.

*

Drama at Ventura College: As the figurative curtain rises at the onset of Jane Martin's "Keely and Du," a young woman is being rolled into a sparsely furnished room on a hospital gurney.

As the audience soon discovers, Keely is pregnant and has been kidnapped from an abortion clinic. Her captors include Walter, a fundamentalist minister, and Du, a registered nurse who works with him. Their goal is to hold Keely until she's ready to give birth.

Martin's play, to its credit, offers the points of view from both sides of the abortion debate.

On the other hand, the arguments would be more even-handed if she hadn't relied on stereotypical conservative Christians and given the minister a Southern accent. A number of reasons to decide against abortion (many of which are presented here) have nothing to do with religious beliefs.

Still, it's an engrossing two hours, well-acted under Judy Garey's direction, and should give audiences something to talk about long after the show.

Diana Magana and Staci Dalrymple portray Keely and Du, respectively, with David Jones as the minister. David DeCuir appears as a character who may prompt booing from the audience, because his presence is so unwelcome. Good job.

* "Keely and Du" closes this weekend at Ventura College Circus Theatre, Loma Vista Boulevard between Ashwood and Day roads. Performances are at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 3 p.m. Sunday. $7; $5, students, staff and seniors. 654-6397.

*

Casting Call: The Moorpark Playhouse, formerly Moorpark Melodrama, will hold auditions from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Sunday for the musical production "A Dickens of a Holiday." This is one of Melodrama's old scripts, written and directed by Andrea Gibbs. There is some pay. Several major roles have been taken. Call 529-1212 for information.

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