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Gerald Carpenter: Local Theater Blossoms in Oxnard, Ojai

Curtains open Friday on Tea at Five and Other People's Money

Some weeks ago, I observed in passing that our region seems to be in the midst of a summer drama festival. However extravagant that remark may have struck a reader at the time, subsequent events appear to have vindicated my fancy, at least unofficially. Now, two southland theater companies are opening significant productions on the same day, Friday, Aug. 13.

Everything about Katharine Hepburn, subject of the play Tea at Five, was extraordinary — her looks, her acting, her life
Everything about Katharine Hepburn, subject of Tea at Five, was extraordinary — her looks, her acting, her life.

In Oxnard, the Elite Theater Co. will open Matthew Lombardo’s one-woman show, Tea at Five, directed by Patricia Strickland, and starring Vivien Latham as the Olympian Broadway and Hollywood actress Katharine Hepburn.

It is a considerable understatement to say that Hepburn lived her own life by her own rules. In her personal life, she was unconventional as only a rebel Yankee girl can be. Yet it was not her lifestyle or love affairs — with Howard Hughes and, famously, Spencer Tracy — that made her famous, but her acting, whether in comedies such as Bringing Up Baby, Philadelphia Story (“The time to make up your mind about somebody is never!”) and Adam’s Rib, or in dramas from Bill of Divorcement to Long Day’s Journey in Night. (In the days when the studios controlled every aspect of their stars’ lives, they had the clout to keep anything real from ever being published about their actors.) In 1999, the American Film Institute ranked Hepburn as the greatest female star in the history of American cinema.

Tea at Five is based on Hepburn’s modestly titled memoirs, Me: Stories of My Life. The play is in two acts and is set in her family estate in Old Saybrook, Conn.

The first act takes place in September 1938, when she has been declared “box office poison” after a series of unsuccessful films. The actress reminisces about her childhood and education, her first forays into show business. The second act, in February 1983, gives us the grande dame recovering after an automobile accident — the enforced leisure affording the now-legendary star an opportunity to reflect on the triumphs of her career and her major romance with Tracy.

Tea at Five plays weekends through Sept. 19. Tickets are $15 to $17 and can be purchased from the Elite Theatre Co. box office at 730 South B St., Suite 20, in Oxnard, or click here or call 805.483.5118.

In Ojai on Friday, the Ojai Art Center Theater will raise the curtain on Other People’s Money by Jerry Sterner, directed by Steve Grumette, produced by Herb Hemming, and starring Jennifer Brown, Linda MacNeal, Robert Sabotka, Buddy Wolds and W. David Wright.

Other People’s Money chronicles the efforts of “Larry the Liquidater,” a ruthless corporate raider and asset-stripper, to take over a small town’s biggest business, which is still in the hands of the family that founded it shortly after the Mayflower landed. The problem is that the current CEO — an honest, generous man, and hence an ideal mark — has a stepdaughter named Kate, and Larry falls in love with her.

Love is bad for business, of course, but the story doesn’t turn out quite like you think it’s going to.

Other People’s Money runs through Sept. 11. Tickets cost $15 to $18 and are available at the Ojai Art Center Theater box office, 113 S. Montgomery St. in Ojai. Click here or call 805.640.8797.

— Gerald Carpenter covers the arts as a Noozhawk contributor. He can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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