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Performers have lessons yet to learn

June 26, 2003|Lynne Heffley | Times Staff Writer

A country bear and a city cat. A fast flamingo and a dawdling duck. A famous teller of fables who can't remember the moral of the tale. Aesop and his fables receive the fractured-fairy-tale treatment in "A Bug, a Frog, a Log, a Dog and ... Aesop!," a new musical by writer B.K. Willerford and composer-lyricist Willow Hale at the Lankershim Arts Center.

The frenetic romp, directed by Pamela Hall, is presented by Stuff Yourself and Go Wild Company, a new group of adult professionals tackling one of theater's more difficult challenges with mixed results: performing for children. How hard can it be?

Aside from requiring the same essentials needed for adult theater -- a well-crafted script and well-executed production, both of which need fine-tuning here -- if your show includes audience participation, it can be very hard indeed.

That was the challenge facing the new company at a recent uneven romp through 50 minutes of jokes, puns, songs and mild sight gags, presented theater-in-a-trunk style with odd pieces of clothing for costumes and found objects for props.

With content more appropriate for ages 5 to 8 than the preschool set in attendance, and with no noticeably willing participants among the shy, wide-eyed tykes sitting on the floor and cuddled close to parents on chairs, some of the actors pumped up the energy and the volume too high for comfort, especially in the echoing acoustics of the arts center's high-ceilinged gallery space.

Among the cast, Bari Willerford is a genial Aesop, but Jamil Chokachi as a comical con man, er, con gorilla, and Lauri Beth Kamiel as the slow but steady duck are best at capturing both character and rhythm most suitable for the piece.



What: "A Bug, a Frog, a Log, a Dog and ... Aesop!"

Where: Lankershim Arts Center, 5108 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood

When: Saturday, 11 a.m.

Cost: $5

Info: (818) 752-7568

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