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LA Theater Review

Tug of War

Timing is everything. Sure, there's not an actor among this bunch that doesn't have the comedic chops to carry this charmer. But in addition the direction is so crisp that said actors wander across the huge "backstage" area and show up to the playing space precisely on time for their lines. And, to top off the viewing pleasure, the weather has turned ideal for outdoor theatre.

Director, adapter, choreographer, and writer of music and lyrics, Meryl Friedman must have been even busier than the two busybody slaves at the center of this giggle-inducing comedy, based on the Ancient Roman playwright Plautus' Rudens, about the characters we've come to love: slaves, pimps, ladies' men, long-lost twins, stars (literally, as in Arcturus), virgins (in air quotes, of course). But Friedman has left no detail to chance, including the production's ragtag look and feel, and we are left in no doubt about her very specific, highly entertaining vision. Said slaves are Peter Van Norden as the doltish Scupus, Steven Totland as the affected Deltoidus, each entirely lovable, each inordinately skilled at humor and audience interaction. Curtis C. plays Arcturus and the father of the luscious virgin Liplocca, played by Cortney Wright; he is a whiz in his solo numbers, she a champ of conveying strength and femininity.

Now, far be it for this critic to term another woman "unattractive." But, boy, at first glance the other of the virgins is particularly burly. The Popeye forearms, the bruiser chin -- these should have been clues. Instead, it's not until we notice the chest hair that we tear our eyes from the production to glance at our programs, where we learn that the adorable Bob Beuth has somewhat disguised himself to play her. Albert Meijer makes a hilariously dashing lothario, Antoine Reynaldo Diel a perfectly adorable pimp, and Jill C. Klein a compendium of wacky accents as priestess and pimp-in-training.

You'll notice the multicultural casting. It works brilliantly here, perhaps one of the best uses of it seen in a long time. The setting is Mediterranean. Who better than those of African, Spanish, and Jewish descent to appear in that setting? And those of Philippine, Nordic, and "other" heritages? Nota bene: The play is about a shipwreck.

Presented by and at the Getty Villa,

17985 Pacific Coast Hwy., Pacific Palisades.

Thu.-Sat. 8 p.m. Sep. 6-29.

(310) 440-7300.

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