June 9, 2005
Special to The Times
"Venus in Orange" is so playful and well-intentioned that knocking it feels like kicking a kitten. An anthology of myth, monologue and movement, Paula Cizmar and Laura Shamas' eight-woman show has as its explicit purpose not drama but a straight-up celebration of the female spirit through the ages, with some commiseration and compromise along the way.
As such, it has some striking moments at Victory Theatre Center, well rendered by a deliciously diverse cast. A jokey retelling of the Atalanta myth highlights the otherwise idealized Venus' jealous favoritism, and a series of solos offers a vivid spectrum from lust to apology, from rage to ambivalence. A sassy roundelay rehearses the exploitation-versus-empowerment debate stirred by such post-feminist icons as Madonna and Britney Spears.
But for each piercing insight, startling image or jolt of acute observational humor, "Venus in Orange" has at least two of those special-pleading, feel-my-pain monologues that have become the theater's answer to the daytime talk show. Thankless group scenes address body issues, rape and the daily indignities a nice girl's supposed to swallow. Ponderous chorales and semi-ironic dance numbers add little but transitional flourishes.
Director Tom Ormeny varies the evening's dynamics remarkably well, and there are some acting gems: Shonnese C.L. Coleman ranges assuredly from perky bemusement to neo-classical declamation; Angela Tom is a calming presence, even when set on stun, and Heidi Fecht has a memorably sharp, smiling sadness about her. Randi Lynne Weidman turns a preachy speech about female artifice into a disarmingly casual confidence.
Ultimately, though, the I-am-woman affirmations of "Venus" purr where they might roar.
'Venus in Orange'
Where: Victory Theatre Center, 3326 W. Victory Blvd., Burbank
When: 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 2 and 7 p.m. Sundays
Ends: July 3
Price: $20 to $22
Info: (818) 841-5421
Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes