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OUT & ABOUT / VENTURA COUNTY | theater notes

Alive and Fantastick

Classic musical retains its timeless whimsy.

November 02, 2000|TODD EVERETT | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

What would a year in Ventura County theater be without "The Fantasticks"? We won't find out this year, since 2000 boasts two productions: one earlier in the year at the Marquie in Camarillo, and the version now playing at the Ojai Center for the Arts. And by the way, the show--which opened just over 40 years ago--is still playing at the Sullivan Street Playhouse in New York City.

In the Ojai production, Carin Gross and Zachary Levi Pugh star as Luisa and Matt, young next-door neighbors whose fathers conspire to bring them together. His father, Hucklebee (Sid Cohn) and hers, Bellomy (Bill Spellman) first fake a feud, forbidding contact between the young 'uns. That creates mutual interest, which the fathers stoke by hiring El Gallo (Armando Hernandez), a sort of soldier of fortune who dresses like Zorro, to abduct Luisa and allow Matt to save her. All of the above is resolved by the end of Act I, and the evening's still young.

The story, which dates to turn-of-the-19th-century France, is treated as a fantasy, with a mime (Nancy Byrd, sans white face) popping up to help things along. Jesse Lovejoy and David Douglas appear as Henry and Mortimer, over-the-hill actors who assist El Gallo in what everybody insists on referring to as the "rape" of Luisa. And, oh yes, there are a number of songs, the best-known of which is "Try to Remember" and the best of which may be "I Can See It," which anachronistically sounds as if it was pulled kicking and screaming from the pre-Broadway tryout of "West Side Story."

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Saturday November 4, 2000 Ventura County Edition Metro Part B Page 3 Zones Desk 1 inches; 24 words Type of Material: Correction
'Fantasticks' director--The Times on Thursday misidentified the director of "The Fantasticks," playing at the Ojai Center for the Arts. The director is Tom Eubanks.

The singing seemed to get stronger as Friday night's show progressed, with accompaniment by pianist Juanita Perry and percussionist Debi Hill. Jaye Hersh is musical director; Aly Boland is the choreographer.

The actors are all appealing--Gross is the reigning Miss Ojai--and there's enough comedy (mainly from the bumbling "actors") under Tom Mueller's strong direction to compensate audience members who easily overdose on whimsy. For those who enjoy whimsy and sentimentality in large doses, remember that "The Fantasticks" is still packing 'em in after four decades.

DETAILS

"The Fantasticks" continues Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 7 p.m. through Nov. 18 at the Ojai Center for the Arts, 113 S. Montgomery St. Tickets to all performances except closing night are $15; $12, seniors and Art Center members. Tickets for the closing night gala Nov. 18 are $28, which includes food and champagne. For reservations or further information, call 640-8797.

*

Even more "classic" than the 200-year-old story of "The Fantasticks" is "Antigone" by the Greek playwright Sophocles. Presumably packing 'em circa 440 BC, the play was adapted in the early 1940s by French playwright Jean Anouilh; it's his version, adapted by Lewis Galantiere, that closes at Cal Lutheran University this weekend, under the direction of Michael J. Arndt.

Creon, king of Thebes, declares that the body of the unsuccessful invader Polynices shall remain unburied--a sign of disgrace in those days--while Polynices' brother, and partner-in-crime, shall receive proper burial. Antigone, the brothers' sister, demands that Polynices be given due respect, which Creon refuses. All this is complicated by the fact that the two would-be invaders and their spunky sister are Creon's nephews and niece, and that Antigone is engaged to Creon's son, Haemon. Antigone's personal attempt to bury her brother is a capital crime, but Creon--adamant about Polynices' fate--is torn about how to deal with Antigone.

Anouilh saw the conflict between government and a higher moral authority as an appropriate point of discussion as the Nazis invaded France, and he tailored the play to that end. Galantiere's translation, which invokes such dated cliches as "beer and skittles" and "it's no skin off their noses," deserves a further update, though the drama--a brisk two hours--remains extremely watchable.

Jacquelynne Fontaine and Barry Finnegan star as Antigone and Creon; theirs are by some distance the strongest roles, and they acquit themselves well. Others in the large cast include Fred Hamel as Haemon, Lesley Almer as Ismene, Simone Rizkallah as Eurydice, Ericka Lawler and Gregorio DeMasi as the Greek chorus and Ryan Hyfield as a comic soldier.

DETAILS

"Antigone" continues Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and concludes Sunday at 2 p.m. at the Preus-Brandt Forum, on the Cal Lutheran University campus, 60 W. Olsen Road in Thousand Oaks. General admission is $8; free with CLU ID. For reservations or further information, call 493-3415.

*

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

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