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Character Studies

Interesting people in touching show about lesbian relations hold audience's attention.

September 21, 2000|TODD EVERETT | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Those among us who complain that local theater groups don't take many chances should take note of "Cafe at the End of the World," concluding its two-weekend run Sunday at the Laurel Theatre in Ventura. Written and directed by local psychotherapist Sue Carroll Moore, it examines a group of people, most of whom are regulars in a bar on a remote Florida key. Not incidentally, Maxie's Last Ditch Cafe is a gay bar.

"Cafe" is one of a relatively small number of plays--Lillian Hellman's 1934 classic "The Children's Hour" and Jane Chambers' early '80s "Last Summer at Bluefish Cove" probably being the best known--with lesbian relationships at their heart.

Both Tony, the cafe's owner, and Flo, the head bartender, are undergoing shifts in their love lives, each with one partner on her way out and another coming in. Though currently involved with Alix (Debbie Fascenda), Tony (Naedine Austin) hasn't quite broken up with Jill (Karin Jensen); because Flo's (Cheryl Snider) longtime partner, Adelle (Anne Reeves), is out of town for an extended period, the bartender has her eyes on Gloria (Estelle Whaley), a tourist from Miami. Randolph (Doug Friedlander) is a failed Hemingway who sees and speaks with the spirits of dead gay authors and picks up a hustler, Jason (Jamie Punzo), who's also spotted by wealthy playboy Barry (Roger Lawrence). Nelson Fox plays all the dead authors. There's a hurricane and a death, but mainly the story is a character study.

It moves fairly quickly under Moore's direction, coming in at about two hours. The characters are interesting enough that it's easy to care about them. While it's often quite funny (and quite graphic about sexual matters, although there's no nudity), it's touching, as well. Ross Care's original music underscore, though a bit too synthesizer-sounding, is a plus.

The acting is inconsistent--several members of the cast were still carrying scripts three performances into the run--but Snider is quite striking, and several of the others are at least adequate.

Bottom line: Although "Cafe at the End of Time" certainly isn't for everybody, it's considerably more interesting than many of the "little" plays produced hereabout and deserving of support.

DETAILS

"Cafe at the End of Time" concludes this weekend at the Laurel Theatre, 1006 E. Main St. in Ventura. Performances are today, Saturday and Sunday at 8 p.m. General admission tickets to all shows are $10. This show is not recommended for children or those potentially offended by the subject matter. For reservations or further information, call 640-8582.

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One of the proudest moments in Dana Daniels' life, he says, was the afternoon Steve Martin dropped by to see his show at Disneyland. Martin ended up leaving before Daniels went on, but the pride is there nonetheless.

Daniels is a sort of spiritual descendant of Martin, you see: Both are from Orange County, both were cheerleaders in high school and both are comic magicians who were regular performers at Disneyland. Martin went on to other pursuits; Daniels, who will appear Saturday at the "Making Magic" benefit for the Ventura College Academic Letter program, regularly performs at the theme park's Golden Horseshoe Saloon.

Daniels' performing partner is Luigi, the Psychic Parrot, a real bird trained to perform illusions; the two have been working together since 1983. "I was making a dove appear, which was a little too ordinary, so I thought a parrot would be fun. He didn't go down that well with the audience, but one day I caught him chewing the corner of a playing card--that led me to train him to perform a trick. I was performing before some other magicians, and they said, 'You're onto something--more bird.' So I went and wrote a whole routine. It's kept me working ever since."

Martin, who stopped by Disneyland awhile back while filming "Bowfinger" in the neighborhood, will have many more chances to see Daniels, who points out that parrots like Luigi live as long as 60 years and that he has a "backup bird" in the . . . wings. "When I retire," the magician says, "my son will be old enough to do the act."

DETAILS

"Making Magic" will play Saturday at 2 and 7 p.m. at the Ventura High School Auditorium, 2155 E. Main St. Unreserved-seat tickets are $8 (free for children under 5) and may be purchased at the box office before the show, in advance at the Ventura High School office or Victoria Village Cleaners, or charged by phone at 642-2358.

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

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