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New West Starts Off With a French Program


That moment when the New West Symphony strikes up the band for a new season is always an important juncture on the Ventura County calendar. This weekend, conductor Boris Brott will lead the opening program of the season, in Thousand Oaks and Oxnard.

Dynamic pianist Christopher O'Riley is no stranger to the area, having been a crowd-pleaser at more than one Ventura Chamber Music Festival. The all-French program is a refreshing deviation from the norm, its only concession to convention being Ravel's "Bolero," an agreeable chestnut. O'Riley will perform on Ravel's Concerto (for left hand only) in D, and Ravel's jazzy Concerto in G, with the orchestra stretching out on Debussy's "La Mer."

* New West Symphony, with pianist Christopher O'Riley, Friday, 8 p.m., Oxnard Performing Arts Center, 800 Hobson Way, and Saturday, 8 p.m., Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza, 2100 Thousand Oaks Blvd. $8 to $67; (800) NEW-WEST.

In-House Art: The annual faculty exhibition currently in the two Ventura College galleries is dedicated to the late Mary Michel, long an important figure on the local art scene. Several of her delicate, less-is-more print works are on display, as are two photographic portraits of the artist: William Hendricks' intimate black-and-white close-up and Donna Granata's broader color image, with the artist's work behind her.

The show, like the faculty, is varied, sometimes even among specific artists. Carlisle Cooper, for example, is represented both by a neat 1961 realist portrait of Heber G. Williams, most unlike his characteristic style, while, in a newer piece called "Dictator's Speech," the sense of figure is almost indiscernible for the overheated rhetoric of paint and words.

Dorothy Orr's "Old Mill Building" gains strength from its Precisionist-like mesh of lines, while Connie Jenkins' "In the Azalea Woods" is a dizzy photo-realist depiction of leafage and dappling shadows. Bob Moskowitz's big, odd "Rage in Malibu" finds veteran show-biz types mugging and romping in the sand, and Debra McKillop's "Night on Earth" heeds her interest in sequential logic with its measured array of suspended paper pieces. Vive la difference.

* Ventura College faculty exhibition, through Oct. 18, Ventura College galleries, 4667 Telegraph Road. Call gallery for hours: (805) 648-8974.

Bard off the Wagon: At some point in the deliciously tipsy play "Barrymore," actor Ronald Rezac bellows the line "My kingdom for a line," with his telling, crooked smirk. There's the rub: It's a crafty, funny and sad play, taking place in a New York theater one night in 1942, about the twilight of an icon as he rehearses with a prompter in the theater.

Taken from John Barrymore's true story, it expands on the actor's plan to reprise "Richard III" and so revive his withered reputation. But he's too far gone to pull it off, and instead blathers on about his illustrious and notorious past, his insecurities and scattershot snippets of Shakespeare--as much from "Hamlet" as "Richard III"--along a booze-lined and frequently witty path.

Rezac, alone, is reason enough to catch the production. He's a winning force, at once pathetic and bolstered by stubborn charm, in the role that won a Tony for Christopher Plummer on Broadway. The egotistical meanderings of infamous legends can make for good theater and good scuttlebutt, as it does here and in the Maria Callas bio play "Master Class" (which began in Santa Paula and is now at Simi Valley Cultural Center through Oct. 20).

* "Barrymore," Santa Paula Theater Center, 125 S. 7th St., Santa Paula. Fridays and Saturdays, 8 p.m., and Sundays, 2:30 p.m. Ends Oct. 20. $15 general, $12 senior citizens and students; $10 children 12 and younger. (805) 525-4645.

"Master Class," Simi Valley Cultural Arts Center, 3050 Los Angeles Ave. Fridays and Saturdays, 8 p.m., and Sundays, 2 p.m. Ends Oct. 20. $15-$18.(805) 581-9940.

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