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THEATER REVIEW

Adult fairy tale is a dreamy delight

An alluring take on the old folk story of 'Kate Crackernuts.'

October 02, 2003|Rob Kendt | Special to The Times

Warning: "Kate Crackernuts" may give you a buzz. I don't mean the Ecstasy high of its club-kid chorus, but something closer to an actual buzzing in your ears -- from John Zalewski's thumping, trickling sound design to the strange, dense, brilliant wordplay of writer Sheila Callaghan.

There's an equally high risk of visual and spatial intoxication. Director Jessica Kubzansky puts us inside the play's whirling womb, with Susan Gratch's industrial-strength set using every conceivable playing area -- around and above and in front of the audience -- and Jeremy Pivnick's lights probing every corner of the 24th Street Theatre's spacious interior. Into this embarrassment of riches add Libby Palmer's quirky costumes and Austin Switser's impressionistic video projections, and the result is part poetry slam, part rave, part dog-eared storybook theater -- and all edgy, infectious, ultra-theatrical entertainment.

In Callaghan's free adaptation of a weird old English folktale, Kate (fiercely deadpan Ashley West Leonard) is the gutsy heroine with a caseload that includes her fluttery half sister, Anne (sugary-brittle Kellie Waymire) and a strung-out invalid, Paul (Thomas Patrick Kelly, in a state of raging, Oedipal collapse). Kate finds Paul's secret: He's fatigued by nightly rave-like revels orchestrated by a middle-aged succubus, Miss Prima (husky-voiced, Joan Collins-esque Jeanie Hackett). Meanwhile, Anne finds herself pursued by Paul's overlooked brother, Ralph (a dashingly muddled Ryun Yu) and by a loquacious sheep (dapper, mesmerizing Joshua Wolf Coleman) who believes she's stolen his head.

Along the way we meet Paul's disembodied voice (exquisite puppet/movement work by dulcet-voiced Monika Jolly) and a gallery of outsized caricatures etched with delectable aplomb by Jacqueline Wright and Nic Arnzen.

If it all sounds a bit woolly and precious, it is. But the play's insistent idiosyncrasies grow on you as surely as heads sprout and vegetables turn blue. "Kate Crackernuts" is an adult fairy tale that, like its tough but vulnerable heroine, follows a warped dream logic while keeping its sharp-tongued wits about it.

*

'Kate Crackernuts'

Where: 24th Street Theatre, 1117 24th St., Los Angeles

When: Fridays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m.

Ends: Nov. 9

Price: $15

Info: (213) 745-6516

Running time: 2 hours, 20 minutes

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