TV and theater merge once again with the stage version of "Fawlty Towers"-- two word-for-word episodes taken from the hit English sitcom by John Cleese and Connie Booth. Unlike the staged version of "The Brady Bunch," which was played for its camp value, "Fawlty Towers" is performed nearly as intended. While it is a satisfactory rendition, with many laughs, it nonetheless pales against the original.

TV and theater merge once again with the stage version of “Fawlty Towers”– two word-for-word episodes taken from the hit English sitcom by John Cleese and Connie Booth. Unlike the staged version of “The Brady Bunch,” which was played for its camp value, “Fawlty Towers” is performed nearly as intended. While it is a satisfactory rendition, with many laughs, it nonetheless pales against the original.

How can a large group of actors be exposed to industry scouts? The notion seems to be: Just find something funny and familiar with a lot of parts.

In “The Kipper and the Corpse,” a hotel guest dies of natural causes in the night, and hotel owner Basil Fawlty (Forrest Witt) tries unsuccessfully to keep the body out of the way of the other guests.

With “Basil the Rat,” a health inspector (David L. Crowley) gives the hotel 24 hours to clean up its kitchen or be shut down, just as Manuel the waiter’s pet rat escapes.

For these particular pieces to work well, however, whoever plays Basil has to meet or exceed the brilliance of the role’s originator, John Cleese — no easy order. Witt makes a valiant try. He’s not as gangly as Cleese, nor are his gestures as skewering, but his misanthropic attitude flows in abundance. If one weren’t thinking of Cleese all the time, he’d be good.

One actor in particular shines: Martin Morales as Manuel. His rubbery face and intrepid comic timing can say volumes without a word spoken. Gillian Doyle as Sybil Fawlty and Cathleen Gallagher as Polly, a waitress/maid, also add competently to the shenanigans.

While the smaller roles are not particularly memorable, they are served with skill by the cast.

Director James Lima shows he has a sense of the comic. With conventional staging and lighting, however, he does not take the pieces beyond their sitcom roots. The segments feel similar to what one can see at a taping of any popular TV comedy in the city.

Fawlty Towers

(Theatre Geo, Hollywood; 99 seats; $ 10 top)

Production

Cathleen Gallagher presents two staged sitcom episodes by John Cleese and Connie Booth; director/

Creative

Set design, James Lima; costumes, Marcee Smith; sound design, Bryan Bowen. Opened Aug. 9, 1994; reviewed Aug. 24; runs through Aug. 31 . Running time: 1 hour, 20 min.

Cast

Basil Fawlty ... Forrest Witt Sybil Fawlty ... Gillian Doyle Manuel ... Martin Morales Polly ... Cathleen Gallagher
With: Michael Raye, Patricia Thomson, Keith Forster, David L. Crowley, Carole Ruggier, Stephen Poletti, Kelli Koppel, Jonathan Frechette, Lisa Denke.
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