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A Very Full ‘Hollow’

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Imagination Station reprises its faithful adaptation of Washington Irving’s spooky classic, “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” but it’s the troupe’s zany new prelude to the tale that makes the biggest hit.

The four-member troupe--Jennifer Brandt, Jake Eberle, Shari Getz and Jon Reed--begin the proceedings as themselves, preparing to meet onstage to plan their show.

In the first bit, early arrival Eberle is waiting for the others, not knowing that they’re hiding, preparing a practical joke: scary noises to make him think the theater is haunted and an ambush with squirt toys.

Irrepressible Reed then suggests a musical, and soon the four are bursting into song, boisterously telling the story of “Sleepy Hollow” to the tune of “Oklahoma,” with lively choreography.

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This idea discarded, they launch into a five-minute version of the movie “Titanic,” a laugh-out-loud treat with Eberle in the “king of the world” Leonardo DiCaprio role, Getz as his love, and Reed and Brandt as everyone else, including both first-class and steerage passengers. The inspired hilarity is worth the price of admission.

After that, the actors do indeed do “Sleepy Hollow,” after choosing parts--Getz as the lovely “as plump as a partridge” Katrinka; tall Eberle as the scarecrow-like, vain and gluttonous Ichabod Crane; Brandt as several characters, young and old; and Reed as Katrinka’s mischievous admirer.

Reed, who’d rather play any other role, protests that he doesn’t have the “curly black hair” for the part of the stalwart Brom; the cast obligingly changes the description, giving Brom “stubble and a broad, gleaming forehead.”

When the tale gets underway, however, few liberties are taken with Irving’s language. Excerpts from the story play out on an almost bare stage against a black curtain, in well-timed vignettes and storytelling narrative.

The actors play their parts with zest; Irving didn’t envision a handsome Ichabod, but Eberle, while lacking such attributes as “huge ears, a long snipe nose and spindle neck,” makes up for his good looks with comically ungainly physical movement. Brandt brings notable animation to her secondary roles.

The restaged ending, with Ichabod fleeing an unseen Headless Horseman, is tighter than before, but lighting effects are essential to giving it impact and timing. Unfortunately, there was a problem at a recent performance, the only bobble in Craig Manrique’s otherwise fine-tuned lighting design.

* “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” Morgan-Wixson Theatre, 2627 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica. Saturdays, 10 a.m. and noon; Sundays, 11:30 a.m. Through Nov. 1. $5-$7. (310) 828-7519.

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Book Bashes: Every Picture Tells a Story hosts two special events this week. Tonight, film stars Angela Bassett and Courtney B. Vance will perform a reading of “To Every Thing There Is a Season,” the new children’s book by multiple-award-winning artists Leo and Diane Dillon. Harlan Ellison will speak and the International Children’s Choir will perform.

The event celebrates the Dillons’ 40th picture book, with vivid illustrations in different art styles, inspired by the words of the Ecclesiastes verse, from which the book takes its name.

On Saturday, Brian Froud, known for his international bestseller, “Faeries,” and for his film collaborations with Jim Henson (“Dark Crystal” and “Labyrinth”), will speak about his art. The event includes an introduction by D’Arcy of Smashing Pumpkins, plus Halloween entertainment. “Good Faeries, Bad Faeries: The Art of Brian Froud” will be on exhibit through Nov. 7, along with the work of doll-maker, sculptor and “Yoda” designer Wendy Froud.

* “To Every Thing There Is a Season,” tonight 7:30 to 9:30 p.m.; “Halloween Reception With Brian Froud,” Saturday, 5 to 8 p.m. Every Picture Tells a Story, 7525 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 932-6070.

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Israeli Educational Theater Troupe: Making its American debut, the Orna Porat National Theater for Children and Youth, an Israeli troupe specializing in educational theater, will present “Shmulik and Zohara,” a true love story about a couple who find themselves in a struggle between their dreams and their patriotic duty in post-World War II Palestine.

The performance, at the University of Judaism’s Gindi Auditorium on Sunday, will re-create the songs, dress and background that characterized Israel on the eve of its nationhood. It is presented as part of the Jewish Federation’s Los Angeles-Tel Aviv Partnership.

* ‘Shmulik and Zohara,” University of Judaism, Gindi Auditorium, Sunday, 4 (in Hebrew) and 7 p.m. (in English). $5. (323) 761-8157.

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