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Alternative Wonderlands : ‘The Notcracker’: Tchaikovsky Deep

In a holiday season in which theatrical offerings include such big-budget productions as South Coast Rep’s perennial “A Christmas Carol,” the Old Globe’s new “How the Grinch Stole Christmas!” as well as the upcoming Radio City Christmas Spectacular at Universal Amphitheatre, many smaller theaters are presenting alternative interpretations of the Christmas spirit.

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For the record:

12:00 AM, Dec. 10, 1998 For the Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday December 10, 1998 Home Edition Calendar Part F Page 60 Entertainment Desk 1 inches; 27 words Type of Material: Correction
Wrong number--The reservations number for “Notcracker: The Nutcracker Project” at the Los Angeles Playhouse is (323) 882-6912. An incorrect number ran with the review in Tuesday’s Calendar.

With slender connections to the perennial Tchaikovsky favorite, “Notcracker: The Nutcracker Project” proves an ambitious but erratic experimental collaboration between the Open Fist and Circle X theaters. Only musical allusions and a toy soldier-shaped nutcracker link 10 independently scripted and directed seriocomic, holiday-themed vignettes about alienation, commercialization and the search for meaning.

Performances are generally strong, but writing quality wavers. Topping the collection: Randall Greenwald’s poetic, sentimental fable of a woman (Cindy Basco) whose rocky relationship receives magical intervention from Santa and his Elvis (Luck Hari directed); Alisa Wilson’s poignantly understated portrait of isolation featuring Erin Fiedler wrapping gifts as she ignores the telephone messages left by family and friends (Stacey J. Warner directed); and Fiedler’s deftly choreographed silent slapstick about a love-struck clown (Richard Augustine) pursuing a restaurant diner (Fiedler) despite the opposition of a stuffy maitre d’ (David Wichert).

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Charley McQuary shines as an irrepressible “ballerina,” but the intentionally bad recurring dance chorus and other misfires underserve both companies’ talents.

* “Notcracker: The Nutcracker Project,” Los Angeles Playhouse, 1625 N. La Brea Ave., Hollywood. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m. Ends Dec. 19. $15. (323) 882-8912. Running time: 1 hour, 50 minutes.


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