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Acting Appeal

'Reconciliation' script may lack charm, but the cast's work is laudable.

August 17, 2000|TODD EVERETT | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Best known as the screenwriter of the film "Moonstruck," John Patrick Shanley has a lengthy list of plays to his credit as well.

"Italian American Reconciliation" isn't a smash hit--in fact, a nonspecialist would be hard-pressed to name any of Shanley's plays. Still, it's a property that has attracted such actors as John Turturro, Joe Pantoliano, David Boreanez, Patti D'Arbanville and Edward Norton to appear in earlier productions.

Now it's one of five plays that opened locally a couple of weeks ago. Produced by the Greenhouse Theatre Group, the show might be missed--especially since it was slipped, without much warning, into the spot left when the Elite Theatre Company abandoned a production it had announced for the same time frame and space.

Taking place in New York, "IAR" is a fable built around Huey, who is increasingly bored by his very nice girlfriend, Teresa, and wishes to reconcile with his former wife, Janice. This despite the fact that Janice had not only taken a shot at Huey near the end of their marriage, she killed his dog. Right about now, you've probably decided whether this play is for you, and your instincts would probably be right.

As with the company's previous production, "Burn This" (which shared a director and several actors), even those put off by the story or who refuse to accept it simply as a character study might appreciate the level of the performances.

Christian Garcia plays the hapless Huey; Amy Garrett is Teresa; Jessie Beld is the firebrand Janice; John Medeiros plays the genial narrator, Huey's best friend; and Stacy Mannari is effective (if a bit young) as Teresa's confidant. All do fine work, although Garcia is one of the more unconventionally mannered actors around, and none of the characters seems particularly Italian--or even Italian American. In fact, two characters couldn't agree on the pronunciation of "minestrone" Friday night. One would think that Italian Americans could at least agree on that. (On the other hand, the non-ethnicity of their performances may be preferable to members of the cast laying on the accents like spaghetti sauce).

Director Bill McDonald notes that he had, earlier on, both directed and starred in a production of this play. It's clearly close to him and commendable that Greenhouse is looking beyond the usual range of community theater productions. But the fact that it's hard to work up any sympathy for the leading characters (Janice would be the most interesting, except for that dog thing) may ultimately work against "Italian American Reconciliation."

DETAILS

"Italian American Reconciliation" continues Fridays and Saturdays at 8:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. through Sept. 3 at the Petit Playhouse, 730 South B St. in Oxnard's Heritage Square. Tickets to all shows are $12, $10 seniors and students, and are available at the door 30 minutes before each performance. For reservations (recommended) or further information, call 483-5118.

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Two performances--Oct. 24 and 25--have been added to the Theatre League's touring production of "Evita," already announced for the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza, Oct. 27-29. Tickets to all "Evita" performances are available through Ticketmaster outlets, by phone at 583-8700 or on the Web at http://www.ticketmaster.com. The League's remaining season will include "Annie," Nov. 28-Dec. 3; Sha Na Na in "Leader of the Pack," a revue of rock songs written by Ellie Greenwich, Jan. 7-14; and Frank Wildhorn's musical "Jekyll & Hyde," March 6-11. Season tickets are available from the Civic Arts Plaza box office or by calling 449-2775.

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Artists Repertory Company of Simi will hold open auditions for its Nov. 3-26 production of Rodgers and Hammerstein's "Carousel" Aug. 22-24, 6 to 9:30 p.m., at the Simi Valley Cultural Arts Center, 3030 Los Angeles Ave. Jan Glasband is the director, with choreography by Dani Brown and musical direction by Zach Spencer. Children auditioning for the chorus should be at least 8 years old and have some acting, singing or dancing experience. No appointment is necessary. For more information, call 529-3611.

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Todd Everett can be reached at teverett@concentric.net.

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