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Sure Thing

Lead character is a scream in Camarillo production that promises a fun night out.

September 14, 2000|By TODD EVERETT | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Local actor and director Don Pearlman has in recent years specialized in plays written by Neil Simon or people whose work is well within Simon territory. He recently directed Woody Allen's "Play It Again, Sam" for the Camarillo Community Theater, and now he returns to the company as director of and actor in "Social Security," written by Andrew Bergman.

Damian Gravino and Trish Haight play David and Barbara Kahn, married Manhattan art dealers who are suddenly forced to take in, and care for, Barbara's mother, Sophie (Marlene Reinhart).

Sophie is something of a gray-haired terrorist, sounding like Darth Vader rather than a little old lady as she clomps into the room with her walker. She's forgetful, hard of hearing and demanding--a powerful combination. And internationally renowned artist Maurice Koenig (Pearlman) is about to visit the Kahns for dinner. How can they keep Sophie from embarrassing everybody and spoiling the business deal?

Everything works out well. Under Pearlman's lickety-split direction, the play comes in at something like two hours, including intermission. The cast is uniformly strong, also including Gail James as Barbara's sister, Trudy, and Sergio Bertolli as Trudy's husband, Martin; they're the ones who have been tending to Sophie and who take advantage of a seeming family crisis to leave Sophie with the Kahns. Reinhart is a scream as Sophie.

There are puzzling inconsistencies, including two anachronistic jokes inserted for this production and a pair of impressionist paintings that the script clearly states should be monochromatic, but nothing that should interfere too much with the audience's good time.

Pearlman stars in the Marquie Dinner Theatre's upcoming "On Golden Pond"; in January, he returns to the Camarillo Community Theater as director of Simon's "Chapter Two."

DETAILS

"Social Security" continues Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. through Sept. 23 at the Camarillo Airport Theatre, 330 Skyway Drive on the Camarillo Airport grounds. Tickets are $12; $10 for seniors, students and active military. For reservations or further information, call 388-5716.

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Ventura County is set for a plethora of little people onstage and in the audience, with two local groups planning plays based on the same classic fairy tale, both aimed at young audiences. Saturday, the Gold Coast Center for the Arts will begin a Saturday-afternoon run of "The Snow White Show," said to have run for several years in New York City; in May, the Conejo Players will produce "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs," also said to have run several years in New York.

Sherry Coben, co-writer of "The Snow White Show," said she was unaware of the other play but was happy to explain hers. She and collaborator Mark Saltzman met while both were attending Cornell University, and "Snow White" was their "first foray into anything." Later, they wound up in television (she created "Kate & Allie,"), film and theater (he wrote "The Adventures of Milo and Otis" and "3 Ninjas Kick Back" and the recent play "Tin Pan Alley Rag").

Written for a local community theater group, "The Snow White Show," along with Coben and Saltzman, wound up off-Broadway. "When you're in New York, you can throw a rock and hit 15 talented singer-dancers, which is what we did," she said.

Oddly, though Saltzman and Coben were involved with the New York production for three years, she said it continued for many years longer without any compensation to its creators, and "it's apparently been done without our knowledge many, many places--one of the people in [the Gold Coast] office told me that she had been in a production. She sang me one of the songs; it was like playing 'telephone,' with her version a garbled but identifiable version of what Mark had written."

The show's permanent cast includes only three players, with the "dwarfs" recruited from each performance's audience. Thus, she said, while "the show can run an hour--I count it as a huge success when nobody had to go to the bathroom in the middle--it can run much longer, depending on the kids."

DETAILS

"The Snow White Show" opens Saturday and continues Saturdays at 1 p.m. through Oct. 21 at the Gold Coast Center for the Arts, 1408 Thousand Oaks Blvd. in Thousand Oaks. Tickets are $8. For reservations or further information, call 497-8606.

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

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