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‘Tis a New Season

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

In the satiric movie “Soapdish,” Kevin Kline plays a soap opera star who is fired from his show and winds up performing Arthur Miller’s tragic “Death of a Salesman” at a Florida dinner theater to an audience more interested in the buffet than in Willie Loman’s fate.

Every actor who’s seen the film--and most actors, it seems, have--empathizes with the Kline character’s dismal circumstance.

With no promise of Kevin Kline, there’s talk that the Marquie Dinner Theater in Moorpark may be mounting its own 1999 production of the venerable Miller drama. You hang around long enough--even in Ventura County--and you see everything.

Several local theater companies have already scheduled performances of plays--ranging from Shakespeare to Neil Simon--for the coming year, so there should be something of interest to just about everybody.

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There are plenty of warhorses in the stable, to be sure: The Shakespeare is “Romeo and Juliet”; the Simon, “The Odd Couple.” But there are a number of new plays and some seldom-seen classics.

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If you’re reading this early enough in the day, and still haven’t decided what to do tonight, you might try Comedy Tonight’s production of “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum,” with dinner before and dancing after, all for $85 (or $60 without dinner). It’s at the Simi Valley Cultural Arts Center; call 389-3193 for information.

The Elite Theater Company, in Oxnard’s Heritage Square, opens its production of “After Play,” Anne Meara’s sort-of romantic comedy, tonight, with a 9 o’clock curtain and “gala champagne buffet after.” Call 483-5118 to see if $25 tickets are still available.

Both plays continue with a reduced admission charge and will be reviewed here next week. “Forum” fans should note two specials for this weekend: If you have Internet access, try the producer’s Web site (https://home1.gte.net/gabrielv/forum) for a reduced rate Saturday night; tickets for seniors are $6 for Sunday’s 2 p.m. matinee only.

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As for the rest of the year, there’s space here for only some highlights. The production of “The Odd Couple” will be Simon’s rewrite for a largely female cast, opening Jan. 8 at the Marquie Dinner Theater (498-9909).

There’ll be a production of “The Turn of the Screw,” based on Henry James’ psychological horror story, at the Ojai Center for the Arts (646-0691) beginning Jan. 15, and the Conejo Players (495-3715) open “The Musical Comedy Murders of 1942" on Jan. 22, the same evening as the Santa Paula Theater Center’s (525-4645) rather more ambitious choice, George Bernard Shaw’s “Candida.”

Later in the year, the Conejo troupe will be performing the musicals “Me and My Girl” and “Here’s Love,” and a two-weekend run of a concert reading of Stephen Sondheim’s “Company,” as well as Simon’s “California Suite.” And Santa Paula’s shows will include the controversial fact-based drama “Taking Sides.”

There’ll be two productions of “Romeo and Juliet,” sort of. The newly formed Rubicon Company will be performing Shakespeare’s play in Ventura in September, and Cal Lutheran University is planning a production of “West Side Story” for sometime in April. We’ll keep you informed; meanwhile, see the current film “Shakespeare in Love.”

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The warring productions of Gilbert and Sullivan’s “The Pirates of Penzance” announced last year are no more.

The Cabrillo Music Theatre (497-8613) will still be performing the musical in July (following March’s non-Gilbert and Sullivan “Singin’ in the Rain”), but Comedy Tonight has wisely backed down--its second annual G&S; festival, scheduled for August, is now set to include “The Mikado,” “Trial by Jury” and some ancillary programs.

Watch these pages for upcoming local debuts of the drama “Marvin’s Room” and the musicals “Plain and Fancy” and “I Love My Wife.”

And oh, yes--two versions of “A Christmas Carol” are already scheduled for December of ’99. Bah! Humbug!

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