Life behind the scenes at a television daytime drama can be as complicated and melodramatic as it's portrayed onstage. Who'd have imagined?
Terrell Anthony, for one; he's the author of "Quiet on the Set," a backstage comedy now playing at the Elite Theatre in Oxnard. It's fast-paced, well-acted and funny and should amuse even those who don't tune in religiously to their "stories" every day.
In the play, Tamra Lydell (Krista Lewis) is back on the set after a protracted absence. Beyond that, it's best not to reveal any plot details. But among the cast are grand dame Judith Petri (Michelle Wagner) and two men--one, Taylor (Bill McDonald), a relentless "method" actor, always looking for motivation in dialogue that's written virtually on the fly; and Bruce (Ron Feltner), whose offstage speech is a constant stream of acting-school babble: "beats," "choices," "subtext" and so on. Both are oblivious to the contention, tendered here, that soap opera dialogue is "the Chinese food of acting--fast, salty and not very satisfying." John Medeiros plays numerous other characters, all hilariously (he's taking Jan. 26 and 27 off, however, with Jas Batra subbing).
Director Doreen Lacy has assembled a top-notch cast, with McDonald and Medeiros coming in from the exciting young Greenhouse company that's been sharing Elite space; Elite veterans Wagner and Feltner; and newcomer Lewis, whose official biography says, intriguingly, that she has "acting experience from film, television and community theaters."
"Quiet on the Set" continues through Feb. 11 at the Elite Theatre Company, 730 South B St. in Oxnard's Heritage Square. Performances are at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays. Tickets are $12; $10, seniors. Reservations are recommended. For reservations or further information, call 483-5118.
The venerable musical "Man of La Mancha" has come to the Simi Valley Cultural Arts Center with a straightforward, capable production under director David Ralphe, bolstered by strong performances in the leading roles.
It's the classic Spanish tale of Don Quixote, which playwright Dale Wasserman portrays as being told by its author, Miguel de Cervantes, held prisoner during the Inquisition. Cervantes appears as Don Quixote; his servant as the Don's companion and servant, Sancho Panza; and the remaining roles are assumed by fellow prisoners.
There are songs, by Joe Darion and Mitch Leigh, the best-known being "The Impossible Dream." And there are a couple of fairly vivid rape scenes, which is probably why the production company doesn't recommend the show for youngsters.
Damian Gravino and Will Shupe star as Quixote and Panza; both are well-known on the local theater scene for good work in numerous shows. Gravino, who seems to have played every male lead short of Peter Pan (Tevye, Billy Bigelow, Frank Butler and Henry Higgins are among the more recent), acquits himself admirably here for his fifth time as Quixote, robust of body (unlike the stereotype Quixote) and voice and seemingly ready to fight the unbeatable foe.
Shupe's role provides comic relief, at which he typically excels, though his is the only attempt at a Spanish accent in the production and sounds something like the Taco Bell Chihuahua. Fred Helsel plays a convict bigwig and (in the story) innkeeper, Jan Glasband is his wife and Don Swayze is terrific as the villainous Pedro.
Shupe arranged the fight choreography--there's one particularly effective scene--and Dani Brown is credited with the various dances. Jeff Rack designed the spare but imaginative stage set (functioning drawbridge! fireplace!), and Kevin Parcher provided the prerecorded, evidently largely synthesized but full-sounding score.
Aside from a few questionable aspects (where did they get those horse masks? From an earlier prison production of "Equus"?) and a portrayal of Moors in a way that might be considered demeaning by the Moorish Anti-Defamation League (and Simi Valley so dangerously close to Moorpark!) this is a worthy "La Mancha," deserving your attention.
"Man of La Mancha" continues through Feb. 11 at the Simi Valley Cultural Arts Center, 3050 Los Angeles Ave. Performances are Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. Tickets are $18 adults, $15 seniors and students, and $10 ages 12 and under. The producers recommend the show for mature audiences. For reservations or further information, call 581-9940.
Todd Everett can be reached at email@example.com.