Enchanted Stage Set for Quirky 'Queens'

It's fitting that the epistolary play "Letters From Queens," based on the correspondence of queens from Catherine of Aragon to Victoria, is so quirky. The venue--California Cottage Theatre--is decidedly eccentric.

It's located inside a private home on a quiet residential street. The living room has been converted into an odd little doll's house theater, with a playing area less than 10 feet square.

The homeowner and theater proprietor, Roy Brocksmith, is also the director and writer of the play. Brocksmith's narrative structure is occasionally more campy than cohesive: Pheopatric Boone plays a mute Tasmanian prince who acts more as a stage prop than a defined character, and an entire subplot seems thrown in primarily for the sake of the play's closing one-liner.

However, Brocksmith ingeniously maximizes his postage-stamp stage, and his cheeky, irreverent approach to history never smacks of the lecture hall. The bombastic cast includes Diane Adair, Ruth Cordell, Kimberly Gibbs and Athene Mihalakis as the queens, and Lynn Ann Leveridge as Mrs. Vera Fopp, the warm and bawdy "guest lecturer" who lends a delightfully naughty edge to the proceedings.

You've really got to love the theater to live with it on such intimate terms--and Roy Brocksmith spreads the magic in this enchanted cottage.

* "Letters From Queens," California Cottage Theatre, 5220 Sylmar Ave., Sherman Oaks. Plays one weekend every month. Indefinitely. Next performances: Nov. 16-18, 8 p.m.; Nov. 18, 9:30 p.m. Free. (818) 990-5773. Running time: 2 hours.

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