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The somersaults are just part of the story

July 26, 2007|Lynne Heffley | Times Staff Writer

OCCIDENTAL Children's Theater's rambunctious charm hasn't faded a whit. Now in its 12th summer, the company is still one of L.A.'s little gems, an acrobatic outdoor theater romp presented with imagination and whiz-bang physicality.

The formula for this year's show, "The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Rogers," remains the same: Under Jamie Angell's skilled direction, young adults portray multiple characters in adaptations of three folk tales and one original bit of silliness.

In a grassy square they run, tumble, somersault and slam and cram their bodies to create characters, props and sets. (Their movement coach is Nick Erickson, a founding member of L.A.'s Diavolo Dance Theater.)

An entertaining tale from South Africa, "Saving the Rain," starts with Brennan Dwyer's slow tortoise besting Alana Dietze's trickster jackal.

In "The Legend of the Stone Cakes" from Ireland, a giant's wife (Dwyer) disguises her husband (Dan Campagna) as a baby in a cradle (Dietze and Karen Baugh) to foil another giant, his nemesis (Betsy Hume on Doug Locke's shoulders).

One dramatic signature bit occurs in a funny Laotian tale, "The King Makes a Bet With Xieng Mieng": Seemingly defying gravity, the actors hurl themselves over and under each other to portray a rushing stream.

Only the original story wears long: In this Robert Louis Stevenson / "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" takeoff, Dr. Jekyll (Dietze) turns into nice Mr. Rogers (Campagna), to Jekyll's long-suffering fiancee's relief. Judicious trimming is needed.


Occidental Children's Theater

Where: Hillside Theater, Occidental College, 1600 Campus Road, Eagle Rock

When: 10 a.m. Thursdays through Saturdays

Ends: Aug. 18

Price: $9, adults; $6 children ages 2 through 12

Info: (323) 259-2771;

Running time: 1 hour

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