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A... MY NAME IS ALICE

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Twenty-eight writers and/or composers, including such notable talents as Anne Meara and Amanda McBroom, contributed to Joan Micklin Silver and Julianne Boyd's loosely structured 1984 revue about the joys and sorrows of contemporary women. After viewing this 90-minute (plus intermission) piece, it strikes us as a lot of effort expended on surprisingly slight content. Dominated by cynical views of the opposite sex, the songs, skits, and monologues that make up this women's-libish cabaret show are less impressive than the seasoned five-member cast making the most of the material.

Most of these segments have only a tiny kernel of an idea that is easily grasped at the outset, then never delved into very deeply. For the most part the show is at its best when in a broadly comic rather than semi-serious vein, allowing its spirited quintet to indulge in fun for fun's sake. There are few comediennes more mirthful than rubber-faced Cindy Benson, a cross between Lucille Ball and Martha Raye, who's always a welcome presence in local cabaret and theatre offerings. Whether portraying a cloddish male construction worker who shouts degrading comments to women passing by or a daydreaming secretary whose humdrum life is energized by images of trashy dime novels, the effervescent Benson makes us forget the simplistic quality of the episodes.

Another yuk-inducing Cindy (with last name of Warden), who also serves superbly as musical director and accompanist, finds wry humor in a running gag about a histrionic poet reciting her overwrought "For Women Only" piece with its thinly veiled fury and hilariously heavy-handed metaphors. She also pulls out all stops for a bouncy ditty about a German girl in search of an identity who settles on a French persona. Perky Faith Salie sparkles in a variety of characterizations, including her monologue about a woman dumped by her boyfriend for another woman, trying to be civil when she'd rather see him stomped by a herd of elephants. She's also effective in a duet about two women of different ages who are nervous about their blind dates, in which she shares the spotlight with the versatile and appealing Peggy Billo. Jenifer Chatfield has her finest moments in a poignant song, "I Sure Like the Boys." The trio of Chatfield, Benson, and Billo delight in a piece about three women escaping their everyday routines by sneaking away to a male strip show. All the women have solid singing voices, and they attack the pleasing opening and closing number, "All Girl Band" (lyrics by David Zippel, music by Doug Karsaros) with glee.

Director Chad Borden keeps the pace crisp and elicits a smooth chemistry among the ensemble. The show is simply staged, using the unit stairway set from the currently running Side Show. Laura Dwan has devised attractive costumes of basic black, stylishly customized to suit each performer. This somewhat dated piece is scarcely the epitome of wit, but the Colony serves it up with style and an infectious sense of fun.

"A… My Name is Alice," presented by the Colony Theatre Company at the Burbank Center Stage, 555 N. Third St., Burbank. Tues.-Wed. 8 p.m., Sat. 2 p.m., Sun. 7 p.m. Feb. 26-Apr. 6. $15. (818) 558-7000.

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