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GIRL OF THE FROZEN NORTH: A MELLERDRAMMER IN TWO ACTS

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om a community service standpoint, the production of this Mountie 'n' maiden melodrama is to be highly lauded. The ticket prices are low, the running time is short, audience participation is encouraged, and there is special seating on cushions for children. There is even ice cream offered at intermission, a bold and lusty vanilla, warm on the palate and with a finish that brings to mind a snow-white gazelle wriggling down the esophagus, leaving in her wake laughter and starlight. Good intentions do not, however, good theatre make. The pre-show musical contributions of Dave Tibbets on guitar give hope—hope that seems to be almost fully realized when director Jamie Sweet makes the curtain speech. As he leads you through a musical warm-up, there's a feeling of certainty that this is the man for the job. And yet Girl of the Frozen Pace more aptly titles the effort. This collection of actors is in no hurry to deliver what is already a pretty marginal script, by Eddie Cope and Buster Cearley. Trouble twists its not overly dramatic mustache as villain J. Harrington Cesspool (Matt Anderson) takes the stage as proprietor of a shabby Yukon hostelry (a design effort by David Leger that looks more like desert camouflage than log cabin). Diffident is an approach not often taken in this role, and for good reason. Anderson makes it look as if Cesspool's bad deeds are just keeping him occupied until his real career takes off elsewhere. On the side of truth and justice is Royal Canadian Mountie Dashell H. Goforth (Eric Hamme, an actor with a fabulous surname he almost lives up to). Cesspool's purpose is to thwart the heroine, Nettie Neetfoot (Erryn Cleaver), in rejoining with her mother, played by Barbara Duncan, who delivers a stylistically admirable performance, one to resonate in the absent but sorely missed balconies. Cleaver brings the requisite blonde hair to the role. When the two are brought together, though, hardly a mention is made. Secondary characters add texture, including "America's gift to the Shakespearean stage" Cleopatra Pannitt (delivered as "major attitude" by Abina Anthony-Davis) and her duplicitous maid Hyacinth Klutz (an energetic Hillary Calvert). Calvert gets to wear the highlight of Amanda Seymour's costume designs: the domestic-work clothing that transforms into a showgirl outfit. Tom Walker and Christopher Moore nobly discharge a couple of seriously underthought roles—it's all tied in to scientific experiments in the neighboring Eskimo village—and Joy Volk is to be applauded for even showing up as Nanook, the unnecessary and decidedly non-native maid. The lighting design, which consists of plugged and un-, is adroitly handled by Yammy Swoot. "Girl of the Frozen North: A Mellerdrammer in Two Acts," presented by the Garage Theatre at Koo's Art Center, 540 E. Broadway, Long Beach. Fri.-Sat. 7 p.m. Sun. 2 p.m. Nov. 28-Dec. 21. $5. (562) 433-833

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