A Play Pregnant With Meaning

Five pregnant women form a Mum-To-Be club and protest a nuclear waste dump--in a capella harmony--in British playwright John Burrows' "It's a Girl," opening this weekend at the Odyssey Theatre.

"It mostly follows one woman, Linda, from child-woman to full-fledged woman," explained director Robin Saex. "The other four women play all the other characters." In addition to Linda (played by "Wonder Years" co-star Olivia d'Abo), the characters include upper-class Delia, who's having her first child late in life; feisty, extroverted Eve and middle-class Mary, who can't wait to have her baby so she can get back to drinking.

"The play (which includes 12 songs by Andy Whitfield) explores how each of these women changes as a result of being pregnant," noted Saex, 29, a recent transplant from New York (where, in addition to credits at Ensemble Studio, Punchline and Juilliard, she had the distinction of directing John F. Kennedy Jr. in the play "Winners"). "Suddenly when you're carrying life in you, your perception of the world around you changes. Things that weren't important now mean everything."

The show--which Saex said betrays "a little Caryl Churchill influence"--doesn't sugar-coat the experience, however. "It's very graphic in its portrayal of pregnancy," admitted the director, a former fact-checker at New York Magazine. "We show everything--from morning sickness to hemorrhoids, to mood swings and crying without reason." Incidentally, actress Laura Bogard, who's playing Eve, knows it all first-hand. In real life, she's four months pregnant.

BACK TO PASSION: Jude Narita is back with her one-woman show, "Coming into Passion/Song for a Sansei," opening this weekend at the Whitefire Theatre. "The show has changed a lot," said the actress, who won a 1988 Los Angeles Drama Critics award for the piece. "It's not so abstract; it's more literal. Although I'm always adding more writing, it's gotten a lot tighter. I'm down to 65 minutes."

The actress, who portrays a half-dozen Asian women, has gone from humble 1987 beginnings at the Powerhouse to a stint in New York and ongoing campus dates. "I didn't plan to bring it back to L.A.," she said of this run. "But it's kind of exciting to see if we can still do it. I always have a lot of returnees, people who come back and back. Groupettes, I guess you'd call them. Or Passionettes."

THEATER BUZZ: What's in a name? Ask John Banach, author of "Naked Dancing" at the Colony Studio Theatre. The drama--about an agoraphobic woman and the mysterious man who appears at her home--has kept the theater's phone lines very busy indeed. Though the play does not feature any nudity, terpsichorean or otherwise, some callers and a few passers-by want to know if there's really naked dancing onstage. "The most frequently asked question," said Colony publicist Bob Canning, "is 'Is it a musical?' and 'How many people do you have dancing naked?' One female caller asked, 'Is the band naked too?' "

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