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THEATER REVIEW

At least the turkey giveaway is appropriate

`The Queen of Bingo' promises to be fun but fails to deliver.

October 06, 2006|Lynne Heffley | Times Staff Writer

Door cards, hard cards, paper specials, daubers, magic wands. That's bingo lingo, and you'll hear a lot of it in "The Queen of Bingo" at the Coronet Theatre, where sisters Babe and Sis are going for the big win and someone in the audience is going to score a frozen turkey by the end of the show.

Really.

With its environmental staging, lipsticked and coiffed male actors as the sisters and the doting observation of bingo devotees, this perennially touring bit of fluff should be more fun than it turns out to be.

It begins promisingly, as the audience, entering the small, street-level theater -- converted by designer Keith Mitchell into a neighborhood church hall -- is greeted by genial Father Mac (Peter Colburn), Irish brogue working overtime ("Jaysus, Mary and Joseph") in a comfortably improvised warmup.

Sis (Shane Partlow, in neat red pantsuit, gray wig and sparkly red cat's-eye glasses) is the first to enter, setting up her voluminous bingo paraphernalia, good luck charms included. Late arrival Babe (Rowan Joseph, who directs), outsized in flowered muumuu over bulky turtleneck, follows suit.

Too late for prime seating, the pair are seated side by side at a table outside the hall in front of athletic lockers. In round after round, Sis and Babe play for cash prizes and the hoped-for honor of being named the night's "queen of bingo." They squabble, dish mundane dirt about fellow players and, over the course of the show's scant 70 or so minutes, gradually reveal something about themselves.

Regrettably, Jeanne Michels and Phyllis Murphy's script and the actors' surface-skimming performances barely rise above the blandly pleasant. Only lighting designer Jeremy Pivnick's spotlights add any depth to the characters' tepid soliloquies that are meant to expose the reasons for widow Sis' gambling obsession and Babe's binge-eating.

Ironically, the actors' efforts to avoid camp in their transgendered roles may be working against them. It was telling that at a recent performance, Partlow's possibly scripted slip into a deeper baritone garnered the show's heartiest laugh.

On the other hand, the audience does get a chance at that frozen turkey....

lynne.heffley@latimes.com

*

'The Queen of Bingo'

Where: Coronet Studio Theatre, 366 N. La Cienega Blvd., L.A.

When: 8 p.m. Fridays, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturdays, 2 and 5 p.m. Sundays

Ends: Indefinitely

Price: $34.99

Running time: 70 minutes

Info: (310) 657-7377, www.thequeenofbingo.com

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