The actor in a one-man show plays either another person--Mark Twain, Harry S. Truman, Pearl Buck--or himself. While it's easy to understand that an audience might want to learn about a dead celebrity in his or her own words, why, one might ask, would anybody want to know more about a total stranger?
But in recent years, Ojai has become a virtual nest of one-man (or one-woman) shows, with a rousingly successful series at Theatre 150, perhaps inspiring a fellow named David Sadka (nope, haven't heard of him, either) to recount his own life beginning this weekend at the Ojai Center for the Arts.
One reason to hear a stranger talk about his or her life might be to take advantage of the person's experience; Christopher Titus' Theater 150 performance last year previewed his successful Fox network series, and both gays and non-gays might profit from Tony Abatemarco's story of his self-discovery, recounted in the theater in October.
Which brings us to Spencer T. Campbell, whose one-man show at Theater 150 (directed by Robert Menna and apparently with some behind-the-scenes help from Doug Motel, another Theater 150 one-man showman), concludes this weekend.
At 17, Ojai resident Campbell hasn't had time to accumulate wide-ranging life experience and, if there's anything unconventional about him, he chooses not to reveal it here. In "Love and Death in the Garden of Eden," Campbell discusses, with disarming frankness, the most recent couple of years in his life, centering on his crush on a girl and how it resolved itself. This microcosm is something that pretty much anybody who's been a teenage boy should be able to identify with: There are numerous laughs of recognition, few gasps of surprise.
Campbell is unusually well-spoken for a teenager; the language of his script is at times almost (but not quite) too formal, too literary. Friday night's audience, seemingly made up largely of friends, was quite enthusiastic. But even if you aren't a friend or relative of the star, "Love and Death in the Garden of Eden" may help provide insight to the mind of a teenager near you.
"Love and Death in the Garden of Eden" concludes this weekend at Theater 150, 918 E. Ojai Ave. in Ojai. Performances are at 8 p.m. Friday-Sunday evenings. Tickets are $20, with a two-for-one special on Sunday. The theater is very small, so reservations are virtually mandatory: call 646-4300.
Trying (in vain) to cover the flurry of local theatrical companies that are attempting to force one more show in before year's end has led to delayed coverage in this space of the Santa Paula Theater Center's ongoing production of "Miracle on 34th Street." It's been well-received elsewhere and is evidently sold out for the remainder of its Santa Paula run, which ends this weekend. The good news is that the production will move on to the Simi Valley Cultural Arts Center, beginning next week.
The script, adapted from Valentine Davies' novel by former Ventura County residents Tom Hall and his wife, L.L. Young, adheres to Davies' story of a man who claims to be Santa Claus being brought to a sanity trial in New York City, against the backdrop of the annual Thanksgiving Day Parade.
This adaptation differs from Meredith Willson's 1963 Broadway musical adaptation, "Here's Love," in that it virtually eliminates the now meaningless Macy's-Gimble's rivalry, eases up on the love story and doesn't have any of Willson's unmemorable songs--except during the curtain call, when in a nice touch they play a recording of his 1951 standard, "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas."
Lea Baskas is featured as Doris Walker, the Macy's personnel person who is charged with running the store's annual parade; she's the single mother of Susan, played here by Gabrielle Sharaga. Irv Citron is Doris' boss; Leslie Nichols, a psychologist and social worker; Jereme Leslie, Doris's suitor; and Michael Barra, the judge forced to determine Santa's authenticity. "Doc" Reynolds stars as Kris Kringle, for some reason consigned to a local retirement home.
Under Linda Livingston's fast-paced direction, it comes in at under two hours' running time--which, coupled with the subject matter, makes it quite appropriate for any child old enough to question ol' Saint Nick.
"Miracle on 34th Street" concludes this weekend at the Santa Paula Theater Center, 125 S. 7th St. Performances are at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and at 2:30 p.m. Sunday. Tickets to all shows are $15; $12, students and seniors; and $8, children 12 and under. This run is said to be sold out, but it wouldn't hurt to call 525-4645 and see if they've installed any folding chairs. On Dec. 8, the show will move to the Simi Valley Cultural Arts Center, 3050 Los Angeles Ave. in Simi Valley, where it will run at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays through Dec. 23. In addition, there will be shows at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 20 and 21. Tickets to all performances are $18, adults; $15, students and seniors; and $10, children 12 and under. For reservations or further information on the Simi Valley engagement, call 581-9940.
Todd Everett can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.