Review: ‘The World of Ray Bradbury’

The evening's best work, "The Veldt," based on a short story and seen in the film "The Illustrated Man," goes beyond the seriousness of its previous incarnations. Here, the director and various designers have fun parodying an all-aluminum, labor-saved future.

The evening’s best work, “The Veldt,” based on a short story and seen in the film “The Illustrated Man,” goes beyond the seriousness of its previous incarnations. Here, the director and various designers have fun parodying an all-aluminum, labor-saved future.

Suburbanites George (Steve Gustafson) and Lydia (Ceptembre Anthony) install a virtual reality playroom for their children, Peter (Mitchell Allen) and Wendy (Hartley Haverty). When the children, who hate their distracted parents, play too often in an African veldt, Dr. Doris (Ursula Martin) is brought in. The story speaks of basic human needs.

Nearly as good is “The Third Landing,” a story from Bradbury’s “The Martian Chronicles.” Other than too heavy a reliance on projected slides to create backgrounds (in case the audience’s imaginations aren’t up to par), the story of Mars as a kind of Grovers Corners intrigues.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, “Kaleidoscope,” a story about five astronauts adrift in space, becomes a drawn-out tale of five talking heads.

“To the Chicago Abyss” seems to be in the program simply as a museum piece, a progenitor to Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451,” which ends the evening. The first feels trite, the latter, dated, particularly in this books-galore-on-audio, CD-ROM-and-online age.

“Pillar of Fire” starts off promisingly enough, with the world’s last corpse, William Lantry (Jacy Crawford), coming to life to break the bubble of society’s Stepford-like existence. Crawford plays Lantry with delightful camp, but the story slows to a corpse’s pace. , and the playwright, too, misses showing why the world needs to rediscover murder and lying. ]

“The Foghorn” shows that a mad lighthouse keeper really isn’t mad. “Ray wrote ‘The Foghorn’ in just a few hours,” says an actor afterward. It feels it.

The one great constant throughout the show is costume designer Naomi Yoshida Rodriguez, whose fashions lend more to each time period than all the projected videos, slides and graphics. Jamie McAllister’s lighting and Gary Christensen’s sound design encourage the imagination. The evening could have used more such imagination.

The World of Ray Bradbury

(Colony Studio Theatre, Los Angeles; 99 seats; $ 20 top)

Production

Studio Theatre Playhouse presents a Colony Production of seven one-act dramas by Ray Bradbury, produced by Barbara Beckley; directed by Michael David Wadler. Scenic design and projections, Susan Gratch; lighting design, Jamie McAllister; sound design, Gary Christensen; costume design, Naomi Yoshida Rodriguez; special effects, Douglas Bashaw; video, Dennis Daniel; props, Richard D. Pedersen; digital imaging, Chad Leeper; graphic art, Van Secrist. Opened Aug. 19; reviewed, Sept. 2; closes Oct. 21. Running time, 2 hours, 35 min. Cast: Mitchell Allen, Ceptembre Anthony, Ivy Bethune, Jacy Crawford, Steve Gustafson, Melissa Hanson, Patricia Harty, Hartley Haverty, Lon Huber, William Dennis Hunt, Gil Johnson, Ursula Martin, Beans Morocco, Whitney Rydbeck, Laura Wernette. Fans of Ray Bradbury, if they value their memories of his talent and stories, should stay away from "The World of Ray Bradbury." Five of the seven one-act plays, all based on his short stories or novels, avoid things theatrical. The two remaining -- if one is still conscious -- display the spark and brilliance of Bradbury at his best. The problems are not in the large cast, whose 15 members give it their all, but in Bradbury and director Michael David Wadler being too reverential to the writer's work. The pacing is slow, the stage is used as a poorer cousin to film, and between plays, an actor explains the history of the previous piece -- material that is written in the program.
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