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VENTURA COUNTY WEEKEND : THEATER / NOTES : Plays Show Women’s Lives in Two Very Different Times : The classic ‘Little Women’ and the more modern ‘Vanities’ explore growth, relationships, humor and strength.

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Two plays that opened locally last weekend should be of particular interest to women, one of them to young girls especially--although men are welcome to both “Little Women” and “Vanities.”

The Elite Theatre Company’s production of “Little Women,” based on the classic novel, was adapted for the stage by Marian DeForest. Louisa May Alcott’s story has been delighting young women for decades, and the recent film version showed that it’s still capable of charming and holding an audience.

The story of four girls in a middle-class home in the Northeast during and after the Civil War should be familiar to practically any female of high school age. By the show’s end, one becomes a successful writer, two characters have died tragically, and there’s a double wedding on the horizon. All that’s left is for the audience to figure out what accent the German teacher is supposed to be using--is it German or Irish, like Gabriel Byrne’s in last year’s film?

That detail aside, this may be the Elite company’s best production yet, thanks to Patricia Lynn-Strickland’s assured direction and a capable cast headed by Deborah Probe, Jolana Lauren and Kimberlee Corney as Jo, Meg and Beth; and by Sarah Campbell and Amber Landis as the young and teen-age Amy. Virginia Streat is strong as the girls’ mother, and Terence Maulhardt, Jorge Benavides and Tom Obeid play the young men in the girls’ lives. Kay Dease is memorable as cantankerous Aunt March.

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Noteworthy, too, is set designer Fred Strickland’s handsome recreation of the March family’s living room.

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Less familiar is Jack Heifner’s “Vanities,” which also follows three women through several important years. We meet these Texans--Kathy (Suzanne Tobin), Joanne (Maggie White) and Mary (Toni Beery, who also directed)--as juniors in high school, where they’re on the cheerleading squad. The 11-year period begins in fall, 1963; and as America changes, so do the women as they proceed through college and into real life. Heifner’s dialogue is funny through the first two scenes, shifting into heaviness as the women meet again after several years.

“Vanities” may be most interesting to those old enough to have lived through the tumultuous era who can appreciate the various costumes, credited to Bianca Jansen, and the wigs.

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Numerous sexual references make “Vanities” inappropriate for children whose parents are easily embarrassed.

Casting Call: The Conejo Players will hold auditions for its upcoming production of “Other People’s Money” Nov. 12-14 at the Players’ Theater, 351 S. Moorpark Road in Thousand Oaks. There will be cold readings and actors should be familiar with the script. The show will play Thursday through Saturday evenings from Jan. 19 through Feb. 24. For more information, call Scott at 597-0428.

Auditions for the Elite Theatre Company’s production of Ernest Thompson’s “West Side Waltz,” directed by Christine Laird, will be held the evenings of Nov. 15 and 16 at the Petit Playhouse. The cast consists of three women, 30, 50 and over 70 years old, and two men, one over 30 and one over 40. The show will run weekends, Jan. 12 through Feb. 17. For more information and audition appointments, call artistic director Judy Heiliger at 525-6219 (evenings) or 656-6669 (days).

The Conejo Afternoon Theatre will hold auditions for its production of the Jean Kerr comedy “Lunch Hour” at 7 p.m. Nov. 19 at the Conejo Players’ Theater, 351 S. Moorpark Ave. in Thousand Oaks. The cast includes three men, ages 30 to 50, and two women ages 20 to 40. The show will play weekend matinees, Jan. 28 through Feb. 18. For more information, call Lucien Jervis at 483-1075 Ext. 122 during business hours, or at 499-3912 before 10 p.m.

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DETAILS

* “LITTLE WOMEN” continues Friday and Saturday evenings at 8 and Sunday afternoons at 2 through Dec. 16 at the Petit Playhouse, 730 S. B St. (Heritage Square), Oxnard. No performances Dec. 8-10. Tickets are $10; $8 for seniors; Visa and MasterCard accepted. For reservations or more information, call 483-5118.

* “VANITIES” continues Friday and Saturday nights at 8 and Sunday nights at 7 through Nov. 19 at the Arts Council Center, 482 Green Meadow Ave. in Thousand Oaks. Tickets are $10; $8 students and seniors. Not recommended for children. For reservations or more information, call 499-4355.

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