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by Elyse Sommer

Brigadoon. . . Coming to Life. . . Chronicles, a lamentation. . . Daisy in the Dreamland. . .  Remodeling. . . . . .  Sixteen Wounded. . . 

BrigadoonBrigadoon: Reprise! Broadway's Best. Lerner and Loewe's first big hit, the enchanting Brigadoon, gets a magical production by Reprise. The lilting distinctive melodies remind us what musicals were like before Andrew Lloyd Webber took one tune and called it a score. Written in 1947, Lerner's book reflects an amorphous post-war faith-based optimism. Inspired by the verse about faith moving mountains, the story grew into a miracle which allows an 18th-century Highland village to only appear one day a century so the inhabitants can retain their safe and peaceful life.

Stuart Ross has waved a magician's wand over the cramped stage of Freud Playhouse, particularly welcome in the placing of the singers and these singers, including the chorus, contain some of the best voices to be reprised. A pair of kilt-clad bagpipers introduce a couplet sung in the clear bell-like tones of ten-year-old Bella Hicks, a little girl with a big future. Ross couples her note with a basso's that makes living instruments of the voices.

Jason Daniely and Marin Mazzi, who just starred locally in The Pasadena Playhouse production of 110 In The Shade, again play lovers American Tommy Albright and Scottish maid Fiona MacLaren. His rich baritone and her iridescent coloratura are as vivid as the colors in a Scottish plaid. Deborah Gibson is a saucy Meg, belting out the comical lyrics in true bad-girl style. Dashing tenor Sean McDermott delivers Charlie Dalrymple's "I'll Go Home With Bonnie Jean" with technical audacity, including a vocal pissing contest with Daniely's Tommy, but McDermott's accomplished dancing and low-key melting rendition of "Come To Me, Bend To Me" are completely winning. Orson Bean plays the teacher Mr. Lundie whose main task is expositional. Mr. Bean twinkles and leaves it at that. Lee Martino choreographs with sweeping skill that makes a ballroom out of a tiny stage containing a small but splendid jewel of an orchestra which Gerald Sternbach conducts with gaiety and panache. Running Dates: August 17-29, 2004. Place: Freud Playhouse, UCLA, Los Angeles, CA. Ph: (310) 825-2101.---Reviewed by Laura Hitchcock
Coming To Life. is about five diverse women in a retirement home sign up for a support group engineered by a graduate student with a hidden agenda. It's described as "a comedy-drama with music, " but by trying to mine this rich material for too much of everything, playwright/composer June August stretches it too thin and too long. Some funny lines, some insights, some absorbing monologues stand out in this amorphous structure. Director Anna Stramese struggles valiantly to overcome the static nature of five women sitting around talking but succeeds best in the performances she's elicited from the remarkable actresses who are the best reason for seeing this show.

The ever-delightful Jacque Lynn Colton is defensive, angry, vulnerable and very funny as Helen; Teddy Vincent's performance as Janette is extraordinary not just in the way she interprets a blind woman but in the riveting validity of her every emotion; Leslie Paxton's warmth inhabits and animates Vera; Jody Carter's acerbic delivery maximizes the understated impact of Professor Emeritus Clara; Dorothy Constantine is forceful as Louise, who wants her clothes to speak for her. Beautiful Felicia Wilson's personal energy makes Linda, the graduate student, vibrant but the part is thinly written and no sense of character emerges. At the Fremont Centre Theatre, South Pasadena, (818) 314-3636, through April 11.--Laura Hitchcock
Remodeling Plans. Is there any horror story that can compare with remodeling your house? Playwright Jennie Webb considers it a life altering experience but her play could use some renovations. Single and a microwave cook, homeowner (Shirley Anderson) has procrastinated on having her kitchen remodeled. The house came without one, but it did come with a giant hole in the floor. For the first half, that gaping hole holds a special fascination as director Randee Trabitz courts disaster by having the actors dance precariously close to the edge.

The Homeowner has a bevy of odd friends: the slutty bachelorette (Maria Spassoff), the knowing kitchen diva (Dayle Kerry) and the wide-eyed domestic Stepford wife (Daniele O'Loughlin). She also some how magically acquires a mother (Joy Claussen) and then a husband (Tony Maggio alternating with Jeff Sugarman). She later switches husbands (Harry Redlich). Anderson manages to look so stressed and tired, you want her to go in the unseen bedroom and take a nap. Unfortunately, Claussen as her mother steals the show. But Trabitz can't match the comedic styles and this ensemble's chemistry fizzles. When after 2 hours (with a 10-minute intermission) the magical transformations occur, nothing enchants us into wanting to believe in the moment rather than leave the moment the lights go up. The play runs through April 18, 2004 at the Where: El Portal Theatre, 5269 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood. (310) 451-0511 -- Jana J. Monji
Daisy in the Dreamland. This beautifully mounted production is rich on content but poor in drama. Monologues by Daisy Bates, an Irish woman who lived for 30 years with Australian aborigines, are mesmerizingly delivered by Lisa Pelikan. For a full-length write-up with more plot details, see our review of the New York Production. For me, what distinguishes Kaufman's play from others of its ilk that expose the colonial exploitation of a native culture is the time and depth given to the aborigines' beliefs and folk tales.

The more dramatic second act brings Daisy to Adelaide where she tries unsuccessfully to persuade Parliament to leave the aborigines in peace. Simon Levy's powerful stage imagery reinforces the dreamtime that enchants Daisy. He teases vivid performances out of an excellent cast, highlighted by Anthony J. Haney as King Billy; Suanne Spoke is bustling and devout; beautiful Eve Brenner holds the stage in her dual roles as Grandma Hunt and Queen Victoria; Lance Guest is dashingly mustachioed as Daisy's second husband Jack Bates (too bad they didn't include her first husband, Breaker Morant); Jay Bell, is an exuberantly pompous Radclife-Brown; and tAndjru Werderitsch makes dreamtime come true with his skill on the ancient aboriginal wind instrument, the didjeridu. Ultimately this is Lisa Pelikan's play. She projects Irish passion, stubbornness and a faith that blurs the lines of organized religion in a doomed and heart-felt effort to blend with and protect the Dreamtime.This Fountain Theatre production is the final selection in The Hot Properties series, whose mandate is to produce new plays by Los Angeles-based theatre companies. At Inside The Ford, 2580 Cahuenga Blvd, Hollywood, Phone: (323) 461-3673, March 11-April 25, 2004. --Laura Hitchcock
Sixteen Wounded. The April 25th closing date for Eliam Kraiem's play Sixteen Wounded was announced even before I went to see it on a press night for second night critics so a full-length review seems rather pointless. Did it deserve to die after just 27 previews and 12 regular performances? Well, if you judge it by its cast -- Judd Hirsch, Omar Metwally, Martha Plimpton, Waleed F. Zuaiter and Jan Maxwell -- no. We certainly need playwrights willing to devote their talents to examining the most intractable issues of our time. Unfortunately this story of a Jewish baker living in Amsterdam and a young Palestinian man whom he befriends after he makes a dramatic and literally glass shattering entry into his bakery, fails to transcend its movie of the week hokeyness. It's full of incredibile and predictable plot turns. I found it hard to swallow the Hirsch character's hiring of the young Arab after his initial anti-Semitic statements. By the end of act one, it was clear to me the title had something to do with the young Arab's mysterious activities in Jerusalem and that Hirsch also had a revelation about his Jewishness up his sleeve. Gerry Hynes, a usually fine director, indulged in too many end of scene blackouts. Still, the play had enough heart tug to perhaps have fared better -- but Off rather than on Broadway.

Sixteen Wounded, Walter Kerr, 219 West 48th Street, (212) 239-6200 -- after being developed at a workshop at the Sundance Theater Lab in 1997 and in 2002 as part of the Mentor Season series at the Cherry Lane Theatre. The design team: Francis O'Connor (set and costume), James F. Ingalls (lighting) and John Gromada (sound). From 3/22/04 to 4/25. -- Elyse Sommer

Chronicles, a lamentation. The remaining time in New York being too short to permit a full review, your attention is directed to the current goings-on at La Mama, where the young Polish theater company, known in English as The Song of the Goat, is presenting Chronicles, a lamentation. The work, loosely focused on the Gilgamesh story, displays many elements of the Polish avant garde of Grotowski and Kantor as it ponders life and death through the art of lamentation. Program notes detail a thesis that links these beautiful multi-lingual laments back to Greek tragedy, but neither that nor the story-telling is easy to follow. Satisfy yourself by just watching and listening to the often astonishing gymnastics (vocal and physical) of this troupe. The show, which lasts less than an hour, continues at La Mama's Annex (66 East 4th Street), though tickets ($20) must be picked up first at the box office at 74A East 4th Street (between 2nd Avenue and The Bowery) first. THURS - SUN @7:30, SUN @2:30. Telephone (212) 475-7710 or 352-3101. Through May 2.--Les Gutman

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