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Mark and Barbara Frog

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Frogs have more fun than anybody, we see from Glenn Hopkins' good-natured cautionary fable. That is, they did. But times are tough for frogs and getting tougher. They're dying all over the world--and if you think it doesn't matter, listen to Grandfama, the wise old Indian Spirit of Hopkins' play. She puts it bluntly: "You'd better watch the frogs. When they die, you die. The frog is the canary in the mineshaft." Hopkins writes his plays, his music, lives his life, to say something. The program for Mark and Barbara Frog ("a Green Musical") bears the legend: "Celebrating 25 years of theatre-making in Los Angeles." Those years and plays have been dedicated to making points about which he cares passionately.

However desperate their plight, Hopkins' froggy lovebirds are irrepressible in their insouciance and joie de vivre. Come what may, they're jolly. We would hate to see such fun-loving creatures disappear from the earth, especially as played by Melissa Baer and Alison Bock, respectively loving hubby Mark and his showgirl-gorgeous batrachian bride Barbara. Hopkins wrote book, music, lyrics, arrangements; he directed and (declaring himself "sick of this macho thing," an advocate of "feminine energy") makes this an all-female production--aside from his auteur self, Ernest Harding as designer of lights, set, and costumes, and Harris Smith of Masquer's Cabaret, who provided wonderful frog sound effects.

Delightful frog impersonators Baer and Bock speak the language of croaks and ribbits like natives. Jumping their rubber-legged way into our hearts, they smooch and sing and deliver a web-footed soft-shoe number wearing bottle-cap berets. Their rather elegant frog costumes were sewn by Barbara Frog herself.

Debbie Elliott as Grandfama, soothsayer in the corner, dispenses stoic wisdom and irony, like: "The white man took our land. We gave you tobacco. Great gift, huh?" Candice Walker is sassy Tadpole, Mark and Barbara's polliwog progeny. On opening night at Venice Mootney, Chihiro Kawamura stood in for Sharon King as Snake/Scientist. King's day job with the Reptile and Amphibian Rescue Network absolves her, but Scientist is a snake in the grass for sending our trusting couple on a journey from which there's no return and causing Mark Frog's sad conclusion: "I don't think they have very big hearts."

Hopkins' new play has heart. Set to his froggy, Gershwin-influenced music, it combines fable, fantasy, and fact with a light touch and a somber warning: "The heart of the living world is beating out a danger signal."

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