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Talk-show pleading breaks out in 'Venus'

June 09, 2005|Rob Kendt | Special to The Times

"Venus in Orange" is so playful and well-intentioned that knocking it feels like kicking a kitten. An anthology of myth, monologue and movement, Paula Cizmar and Laura Shamas' eight-woman show has as its explicit purpose not drama but a straight-up celebration of the female spirit through the ages, with some commiseration and compromise along the way.

As such, it has some striking moments at Victory Theatre Center, well rendered by a deliciously diverse cast. A jokey retelling of the Atalanta myth highlights the otherwise idealized Venus' jealous favoritism, and a series of solos offers a vivid spectrum from lust to apology, from rage to ambivalence. A sassy roundelay rehearses the exploitation-versus-empowerment debate stirred by such post-feminist icons as Madonna and Britney Spears.

But for each piercing insight, startling image or jolt of acute observational humor, "Venus in Orange" has at least two of those special-pleading, feel-my-pain monologues that have become the theater's answer to the daytime talk show. Thankless group scenes address body issues, rape and the daily indignities a nice girl's supposed to swallow. Ponderous chorales and semi-ironic dance numbers add little but transitional flourishes.

Director Tom Ormeny varies the evening's dynamics remarkably well, and there are some acting gems: Shonnese C.L. Coleman ranges assuredly from perky bemusement to neo-classical declamation; Angela Tom is a calming presence, even when set on stun, and Heidi Fecht has a memorably sharp, smiling sadness about her. Randi Lynne Weidman turns a preachy speech about female artifice into a disarmingly casual confidence.

Ultimately, though, the I-am-woman affirmations of "Venus" purr where they might roar.


'Venus in Orange'

Where: Victory Theatre Center, 3326 W. Victory Blvd., Burbank

When: 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 2 and 7 p.m. Sundays

Ends: July 3

Price: $20 to $22

Info: (818) 841-5421

Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

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