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Genise, Strykowski anchor 'The Wisdom of Eve'

"Fasten your seatbelts. It's going to be a bumpy night."

Indeed it is. Bumpy, witty, sly and very, very funny. —

"The Wisdom of Eve," at Camelot Theatre Company, has all — the lines we remember from "All About Eve," the 1950 movie with Bette — Davis, and a whole lot more. It's all here - the story of the bigger-than-life — Broadway actress Margo Channing and the young conniving ing?nue, Eve Harrington — - along with a fast-moving mix of backstage Broadway and not-so-loyal — friendship.

To be sure, Camelot's Artistic Managing Director Livia — Genise makes Margo Channing very much her own character. Genise does not — do a riff on anyone else's performance of Margo Channing. Lovable, impulsive, — accomplished and insecure, Genise's Margo is a many-faceted and accomplished — woman. Genise makes it clear that Margo's anger at Eve is as much about — betrayal as it is about a fading career.

Camelot Theatre and the production's director John Litton — have a real find in Nicole Strykowski as Eve Harrington. She holds her — own with the outstanding Genise and the other experienced cast members. — From the moment her waif-like Eve cons Channing's friend Karen Roberts — (Linda Otto) into an introduction to her "idol," Strykowski effectively — underlays Eve's ing?nue persona with the character's true calculating — self. We see Eve insinuate, seduce and blackmail her way up the ladder, — from secretary to understudy to star, using the hapless stage manager — Harvey (Larry Ziegelmeyer), the na've Karen, and the besotted playwright — Lloyd Roberts (Daniel Grossbard). Only Margo's husband Bill Samson (Doug — Mitchell) sees Eve for the snake she really is.

Strykowski is a drama department senior at Southern Oregon — University. She has already made a name for herself in SOU and local productions — and she will be interning at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival this season. —

These star turns are ably backed by Al Laney as gossip — columnist Tally-Ho Thompson, Marilyn Simmonds-Cole as Channing's dresser — Leila and Jennifer McWhorter as the real ing?nue Vera Franklin. (Tai Sammons — took over the role on Feb. 7 and will continue through the end of the — run). John Simutis does a brief but sly turn as agent Bert Hinkle.

John Litton's direction is a bit too "busy" for my taste. — The play's dialogue is fast and intelligent and Litton would be better — served by having his actors react less and not ping-pong so much about — the stage. Maybe it was first night nerves? The second act seemed to go — much better. The actors were more relaxed, less purposelessly frenetic — and their timing improved.

Camelot Theatre has knocked itself out with this production. — There is an elaborate set, designed by Nick Walsch, with the stage divided — between a recreation of a Broadway star's dressing room and the living — room of a fashionable Manhattan apartment. Best of all are Dotti Isom's — costumes - the tailored suits, sleek dresses and politically-incorrect — furs that indelibly set the time and place of the action.

"The Wisdom of Eve" started in 1946 as a short story in — Cosmopolitan magazine by Mary Orr, who then turned it into a radio play — for NBC. Twentieth Century Fox bought all rights (for $5,000) and Joseph — L. Mankiewicz, who had just written the successful "Letter to Three Wives" — was hired to write and direct. "All About Eve" was actually written for — Claudette Colbert. When Colbert became unavailable due to a ruptured disc, — Mankiewicz reluctantly cast Bette Davis, whose career, like Margo Channing's, — was fading as she got older. The role of Eve was written for Jeanne Crain, — who also had to bow out of the production, and a young, untried Anne Baxter — replaced her. Mankiewicz kept most of Orr's snappy dialogue but his genius — was to add the character of an acerbic theater critic, Addison DeWitt — (played by George Sanders), to provide the narration and a spectacular — confrontation scene with Eve. In 1970, the movie was adapted into the — hit musical "Applause" with Lauren Bacall as Margo Channing.

"The Wisdom of Eve" plays at Camelot Theatre Company in — Talent through March 6, with performances Friday, Saturday and Monday — at 8 p.m. and a matinee on Sunday at 2 p.m. There is a special pay-what-you-can — performance tonight at 8 p.m. For more information, call 535-5250.