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Marion Ross Turns From Fonz to Franz

Actress Marion Ross dons a trio of hats--playing Franz Kafka’s mother, a toadying secretary and a passionless fiancee--in Marvin Chernoff’s “Kafka’s Kastle Kareer,” opening Thursday at Company of Angels Theatre.

Observing love, death and the corporate world, six actors play a range of roles, including Kafka’s disapproving mother and father, an anti-social hypochondriac, a naive virgin, an idealistic whore and an Adolf Eichmann incarnation. “And one person plays an ape, and one plays an insect,” Ross added. “It’s a very funny, very absurdist look at Kafka’s life and writing. It’s like you’re inside his mind--which, of course, was slightly mad.”

Although this marks the actress’ debut at Company of Angels, she’s been busy on the boards since the TV series “Happy Days” folded in 1984. “Someone told me that ‘Happy Days’ would open some doors and close others,” she recalled of her ‘50s mother role. “I worried about that. But I didn’t want to do another series. Theater is wonderful, but it is a workout. You have to be like an athlete in your mind and body, a tiger to carry it off.”

Recent stage roles include national tours of “Arsenic and Old Lace” (Wilshire Theatre, 1987) and “Steel Magnolias” (Wilshire, 1989), plus “Independence” (Burbank Theatre Guild, 1990) and “Long Day’s Journey Into Night” (Seattle Rep, 1990). In between, Ross has also done her own solo show, “A Lovely Light,” a play by Dorothy Stickney about Edna St. Vincent Millay. “When I’m alone on stage, I never sweat a drop,” she said. “When I’m with other people, I sweat like a whore in church.”

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FUN WITH WILL: “Shakespeare ‘Til You Drop,” an all-day/all-night celebration of the Bard, will be held at West Coast Ensemble, starting at 12:01 a.m. on April 3, and moving 18 hours later to the nearby China Club where it remains from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m.

Intended as a fund-raiser for Will & Company (which brings Shakespeare to local schools and libraries), the event will feature all of Shakespeare’s work--in abridged versions, scenes and monologues--plus fencing demonstrations, juggling, musicians, and celebrity appearances. For ticket prices and information: (213) 655-9582.

A BREATH OF HOT AIR: A three-page press release for Friends and Artists’ “Curator of Orchids” caught our attention. It listed no author or contact, but referred to Mark McNease’s one-man show as a “breath of fresh air” in light of, among other things, “the recent flooding of the legitimate stage by one-woman shows depicting the Jewish lifestyle.”

Stage Week tracked the anonymous release to “Curator” director Rick Rose. To back up his claim of a “flood” of one-woman Jewish shows, Rose cited “Sheri Glaser’s piece (“Family Secrets”) and two other shows I’ve got written down but can’t think of right now.” He admitted he’d perhaps “played a bit fast and loose” with the facts, but stressed that any intimation of anti-Semitism in his rhetoric “was completely unintentional.”

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‘WALL OF WATER’ WINS: Women in Theatre’s 1991 WIT New Play Grant goes to the Eclectic Company for a production of Sherry Kramer’s “The Wall of Water” at the Coast Playhouse in June. . . .

A revised version of Jane Anderson’s “The Baby Dance” (produced last year at the Pasadena Playhouse) just opened at the Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven, Conn. Original cast members Linda Purl, Stephanie Zimbalist, Joel Polis, John Bennett Perry and Richard Lineback reprise their roles. . . . On April 29, Timberlake Wertenbaker’s “Our Country’s Good” (which ran at the Taper in ’89) heads to Broadway’s Nederlander Theatre; Mark Lamos directs the Hartford Stage Co. production.

OUT OF TOWN: Edward Hastings is leaving his job as artistic director of American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco. But he’s still there for now, staging the premiere of South African playwright Lisette Lecat Ross’ “Dark Sun,” a play that had earlier been announced, then canceled, as part of a Los Angeles Theatre Center season last year. It opens April 13.


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