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Stage Review

Being a Kid 101: Tips From Experts

April 08, 1999|CORINNE FLOCKEN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

A G-rated "Laugh-In?" You bet your sweet bippy.

Brimming with quickie sketches and gentle gibes against the Establishment--that would be we parents--"How to Eat Like a Child (And Other Lessons in Not Being a Grown-Up") at the Moulton Theater recalls the sass of the bygone "Laugh In" television show sans the bite-- and the go-go girls.

Performed by the Laguna Playhouse Youth Theater, this Delia Ephron/John Forster/Judith Kahan musical (based on Ephron's book of the same title) is a tongue-in-cheek primer on the do's and don'ts of being a kid, delivered in a series of unconnected songs and sketches. Youth theater director Joe Lauderdale directed and choreographed the show, helping his ensemble of 9- to 14-year-olds infuse Ephron's bon mots with plenty of zing. A small, live band throws in the musical punctuation points.

The show plays Friday and continues through Sunday at the Moulton Theater in Laguna Beach.

Dwight Richard Odle's multilevel play-park set (complete with working swings, teeter-totters, jungle gym and slide) provides a flexible setting and "Laugh-In"-style cutouts from which the youngsters can fire one-liners. Marilyn McElroy's costumes underscore the ensemble feel with a uniform of overalls in an array of bright, solid colors.

The tips offered range from how to stay home sick from school to how to practice the violin and how to guilt bag your parents. High points include "How to Beg for a Dog," delivered by Bradley Mielke, Kellie Nitkin and the "adorable, available and odorless" canine himself, Bamdad Miradi, in high-stepping, Broadway style.

The overall mood is one of high jinks, but there are also a couple of scenes that have a more substantial message, reminding us oldsters just how emotionally harrowing growing up can be.

"Sayonara," delivered with plenty of pre-adolescent angst by Evonne Sturm, protests the injustices of being sent to your room and how unloved it can make a kid feel. Ashley Eskew's sweet rendition of "The Birthday Song" recalls the warm fuzzies a kid gets from the presence (and, OK, the presents) of family and friends.

Occasionally, the scenes fall flat. But the culprit is the script, not the cast. A couple of man-on-the-street sketches, in which Mielke "interviews" supposedly random kids, suffer from a lack of discernible punch lines. Others are too long.

Still, the script is delivered with such a sense of fun that even old, worn-out kids like me have a hard time resisting. If you do find yourself straight-faced, listen extra hard. Your inner kid needs a tickle.

BE THERE

"How to Eat Like a Child (And Other Lessons in Not Being a Grown-Up)," Moulton Theater, 606 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach. Friday4/9 at 7:30 p.m., Saturday at 2 and 7:30 p.m., Sunday at 1 and 5 p.m. $11 to $14. Children under 5 not admitted. (949) 497-2787. Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes.

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