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A Bumpy Staging of ‘Frog, Toad’

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Frog, Lizard and Field Mouse are planning a surprise birthday party for their friend Toad. But that unhappy amphibian, made aware by his friends’ laughter that he looks like “a large, lumpy, foolish toad” in his swimsuit, goes off alone to sulk.

“Frog and Toad,” Arnold Lobel’s whimsical children’s book, has been smoothly adapted for stage by Belinda Acosta, but the Serendipity Theatre Co.'s uneven production at the Coronet Theatre makes it a bumpy ride.

Problems abound. The woodsy set design by Leona Sadobee is fine, but Toad’s house is devoid of charm. Makeup is bland and so are costumes by Cheniele Taylor--street clothes and spandex that barely suggest each actor’s animal/reptile character. As Toad, Dana Craig’s blow-dried, styled hair looks decidedly out of place.

Under Jody Johnston Davidson’s direction, meanwhile, the cast seems to be playing in front of the set, instead of in it. Nor do the actors connect as an ensemble.

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When Jeremy Scott as Lizard tries to work up some comic energy, or Katy Henk uses exaggerated rodent mannerisms as Field Mouse, they might as well be working to a mirror. Dana Craig’s Toad and Michael C. Miller’s Frog have gentle moments as best friends, but don’t project much personality; neither does Lyndie Robbins as Snail.

Although this is a professional production, the result is as if some well-meaning moms and dads had gotten together, with more will than skill, to put on a show. After the company’s last production, a heartfelt, well-staged version of Tomi DePaola’s “Merry Christmas, Strega Nona,” this lesser offering is an unexpected disappointment.

Coronet Theatre, 366 N. La Cienega Blvd, Los Angeles. Friday, 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, 2 and 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, 1 and 4 p.m. Ends Feb. 10. For ages 3 and older. Adults, $10; children 13 and under, $6; (213) 652-9199. Running time: 1 hour.

KID NOTES: A second visit to “The Snow Queen” at the Bob Baker Marionette Theatre downtown finds that its musical puppet adaptation of the Hans Christian Andersen classic has been retuned and tightened and no longer has a “work-in-progress” feel. The behemoth Snow Queen puppet is still unwieldy, but the rest of the show, presented by skillful puppeteers, is especially appealing to preschoolers. Information: (213) 250-9995.

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