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Premieres aplenty in Laguna Beach Playhouse’s new season

Tom Titus

The Laguna Playhouse may be a senior citizen among America’s

theaters -- having embarked on its 82nd season -- but there’s nothing

“old timey” about the lineup of six plays to grace the playhouse’s

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stage for the 2002-03 campaign.

The new season, recently announced by Executive Director Richard

Stein, will include two world premieres, one U.S. premiere and two

West Coast premieres. A seventh play is still to be selected.

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The season actually is already under way with a bang as the only

non-premiere of the lot -- “Always ... Patsy Cline” -- offers a tough

act to follow. The two-woman show, reviewed in a recent column,

spotlights Sally Struthers and Christa Jackson who’ll be bringing the

house down with generous doses of comedy and music through Aug. 25.

The world premieres begin in the fall as “Jumping for Joy” by Jon

Marans takes the stage Sept. 7 through Oct. 6. It’s described as a

dark comedy about a prodigal son who returns home to dictate the

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future of his ailing father and his troubled sister, only to find

himself engulfed in his family’s growing expectation that he’s there

to stay.

Another musical, “The Spitfire Grill,” makes its West Coast

premiere Nov. 2. Based on the 1996 movie with Ellen Burstyn

(nominated for an Oscar), it traces the story of a young woman’s

search for a new direction in her life, this time with the action set

to music. The show plays through Dec. 1.

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The play to be announced is ticketed from Jan. 4 through Feb. 2,

to be followed by the American premiere of Bernard Farrell’s “Lovers

at Versailles.” This bittersweet comedy focuses on three women left

behind when the husband of one and the father of two others dies.

Performances will be given Feb. 22-March 23.

“Mr. Shaw Goes to Hollywood” is the second world premiere and will

run from April 5 to May 4. Playwright Mark Saltzman turns back the

clock to 1933 when George Bernard Shaw stops off at the movie capital

on a round-the-world tour with his wife -- and supporting characters

include Louis B. Mayer, William Randolph Hearst, Marian Davies, Clark

Gable, John Barrymore and Charlie Chaplin. The clash of all those

egos should reverberate through the playhouse.

Making its West Coast premiere in time for the start of the next

baseball season will be “Rounding Third” by Richard Dresser, whose

“Wonderful World” and “Gun Shy” also were produced at the playhouse.

The comedy about a die-hard Little League coach and his new,

idealistic assistant coach will run from May 31 through June 29.

If the rest of the playhouse’s season is as thoroughly

entertaining as “Always ... Patsy Cline,” audiences are in for a real

treat in 2002-03.

* TOM TITUS reviews local theater for the Coastline Pilot.


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