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Making ‘Inroads’ at Burbage Theatre

The 30th anniversary of Tibet’s unsuccessful revolt against China--which has been marked by demonstrations, rioting and the imposition of martial law in the Tibetan capital of Lhasa--provides a topical backdrop for Steven Lowe’s “Tibetan Inroads,” opening Thursday at the Burbage Theatre in West Los Angeles.

The love affair between a blacksmith and a landlord’s wife is the emotional jumping-off point for the 1950s/'60s-set cultural study. Zara Houshmand directs an all-Asian cast (nine actors playing 20 characters) in a staging she describes as “very spare, very stylized.”

“It’s a powerful allegory,” added Houshmand (of Iranian descent but born in Orange County), who confesses she had to brush up on her Tibetan history for the production. “It’s told through the eyes of the blacksmith, Dorje, as he’s caught (in the act of adultery), brought to trial, learns revenge--and finds that he prefers revenge. The first act ends with the Chinese invasion of Tibet. The second act takes you into the time of the (Cultural) Revolution, as he comes to see the value of the old culture, and what the Revolution has promised--but not delivered.”

SQUEEZE PLAY: Last seen in a touring production at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in 1984, the Arthur Kopit/Maury Yeston Tony Award-winning musical “Nine” returns to town in a 99-seat venue, opening Friday at the Gene Dynarski Theatre in Hollywood.

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“This is the real show,” promised co-producer Ramona Field of the staging, which features 27 actors (including children) on an 18-by-30-foot stage. “We’re doing it the way (it was done on Broadway and on tour): with each member of the cast retained in a box in Guido’s mind--and it really works. Magic!”

AND THE WINNER IS: Will it be “Born Yesterday,” “The Crucible,” “El Salvador” or “Fences”?

Awards for outstanding production, direction, writing, design and performance will be presented at the 20th annual Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Awards, held April 9 at the Sheraton Grande Hotel. The dinner-and-awards show will be hosted by Vincent Price and Coral Browne, featuring such presenters as Marla Gibbs, Phyllis Frelich, Esai Morales, Jean Smart, George Murdoch, Brock Peters and Julie Harris.

In the Circle’s one nod to the future, L.A. Festival director Peter Sellars will be the guest of honor. Entertainment will be provided by comedian Steven Banks (currently appearing at the Pasadena Playhouse) and Ethel Merman-soundalike Rita McKenzie.

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Tickets are $47.50 if ordered before April 1, $52.50 thereafter. They may be ordered by mail through Ticket Express, 6607 Sunset Blvd. Hollywood, Calif. 90028, or by calling (213) 465-0070.

CRITICAL CROSSFIRE: Joel Kimmel’s one-man show about pianist/personality Oscar Levant, “At Wit’s End,” is playing at the Coronet Theatre. Charles Nelson Reilly directs Stan Freeman.

Said The Times’ Dan Sullivan: “Freeman, of the baggy eyes and the strong piano technique, is just the man to portray (Oscar Levant). Freeman isn’t the grouch that Levant was, but he understands the disappointment that lies under so much of Levant’s wit.”

In the Herald Examiner, Clifford Gallo wrote: “ ‘At Wit’s End’ is a pure delight, though the production could use some condensing . . . Freeman inhabits the role as few performers could.”

From Tom Jacobs in the Daily News: “While it’s not a really satisfying piece of theater, it is a pleasant way to spend a couple of hours. Genuine wit is a rare commodity, and being exposed to it is always a pleasure.”

Noted Daily Variety’s Doug Galloway: “Levant was unique, so to capture his persona, not to mention his talents as a pianist, would appear a difficult task at best. Nothing less than the highest kudos are in order for Freeman, who turns in a brilliant performance.”

Said the Hollywood Reporter’s Jay Reiner: “Freeman’s deadpan delivery approximates Oscar’s, but he has a tendency to comment facially on his own wisecracks, which Levant rarely did. He plays piano beautifully, but often it’s too polished a performance for a show about a someone ‘at wit’s end.’ ”


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