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A wacky, trailer park 'Cinderella' story

April 16, 2004

Tom Titus

According to the publisher of "Cinderella Waltz," playwright Don

Nigro's mission was to "investigate the archetypical origins of the

tale contrasting the familiar and charming Perrault version with the

darker more ancient tale recorded by the brothers Grimm."

Well, the Costa Mesa Civic Playhouse has laid its hands on this

wacky take on the classic fairy tale and done some investigating of

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its own. The result is a sterling example of what can be done with

liberal doses of the F word. No, not that one -- we're talking about

"Farce."

Director Kyle Myers has transported Nigro's "Cinderella" from a

rural, woodsy area to a trailer park in the 1980s and given his

enthusiastic cast carte blanche to wring every last bit of comedy out

of the play, then add some bits of their own. Sometimes the wringing

process is obvious, and occasionally overlong, but for the most part,

this "Cinderella" is a crackling comedy replete with twists and

turns.

The most significant points in its favor are the actresses playing

Cinderella (known here as Rosey Snow) and her wild harridan of a

stepmother. Playhouse favorites Adriana Sanchez and Lynn Reinert take

on these characters with gleeful relish, although there's still a

mountain of farce for the rest of the company to climb.

Sanchez glows as the put-upon stepchild whose cleaning duties

("wash the goat, wash the cat, wash the trailer") are as never-ending

as some of the comic bits involving the old well in the back yard,

from which several characters emerge. It's a "straight" character

polished to a high gloss by Sanchez's doe-eyed adorability and

innocent charm.

Reinert, meanwhile, sinks her teeth into the stepmother's role and

hangs on like a rabid pit bull. While it may seem "over the top" to

theatrical purists, Reinert is on intimate terms with the farcical

style of performing and establishes her character as the queen of

trailer trash.

The obligatory fairy godmother, here known as "Mother Magee," is a

delightful concoction of chutzpah and shtick, gleefully rendered by

Janet McGregor. There's also a village idiot called Zed (Ryan

Holihan), who's a nuisance at the outset, but who figures prominently

in the plot as it unravels -- for one thing, he's semi-literate under

normal conditions, but a virtual brain surgeon with a few belts of

liquor in his system.

Rosey's two stepsisters, christened Regan and Goneril (after

Cordelia's rival siblings in "King Lear," no less), are a contrasting

pair. Kimberly Arnold as Regan is a bubblegum-chewing airhead, while

Chrissy Tiholiz's Goneril is a formidably built bookworm with little

interest in the prince's ball.

The prince himself is a wispy, vacuous clod, well interpreted by

Mark Phillips, but the real comedy in the palace guard belongs to

Jason Kraft as a servant known as Troll -- the physical demands on

his character are frightening. Ivar Vasco completes the cast as

Rosey's father, who spends the entire play searching for his missing

pants.

Myers also shares scenic design credit with Steve and Kathy

Endicott, and the setting is a colorful melange of trailer park

kitsch. The director also has costumed this flashy, trashy troupe,

outdoing himself on Reinert's outrageous outfits.

"Cinderella Waltz" challenges its audience to abstain from

laughter, even while they're whispering "They've got to be kidding."

They really are, and it's a comedic smorgasbord.

* TOM TITUS reviews local theater for the Daily Pilot. His reviews

appear Fridays.

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