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Back in the saddle: The Couches of Circle Bar B return with a new dinner theater venture at Timbers

Who done it? Brandi Wolff as the voodoo priestess or Erica Flor as the society girl? Sean Jackson, center, as Rick Archer, is on the case. Prism Productions photo

Who done it? Brandi Wolff as the voodoo priestess or Erica Flor as the society girl? Sean Jackson, center, as Rick Archer, is on the case.
Prism Productions photo

Many theatergoers’ hearts were broken last year with the unexpected closing down of Circle Bar B Dinner Theater. After 40 years, Susie and David Couch’s creation was in the black and pulling in regulars from as far south as Orange County, but the ranch that hosted their small theater decided to go in different directions.

But the Couches have a new name – Prism Productions – and a new lease on theatrical life. And the venue, Timbers, is also coming back from hibernation. The woodsy Winchester Canyon restaurant and bar was built in 1952, using wood from the Goleta pier once bombed by the Japanese in World War II. Since 2004 it has fallen into disrepair. But HJL Group, the restaurant company behind Arch Rock Fish and The Marquee, are bringing it back. The Goodland Supper Club, as the Couches are calling this three-play series, will be one of its early entertainment options.

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‘Light Up the Sky’ at SBCC is a love letter to the stage

Raymond Wallenthin, Marisol Miller-Wave, Stephanie Erb, David Holmes and Susie Couch star in SBCC Theatre Group's production of "Light Up the Sky. Ben Crop

Raymond Wallenthin, Marisol Miller-Wave, Stephanie Erb, David Holmes and Susie Couch star in SBCC Theatre Group’s production of “Light Up the Sky.
Ben Crop

Moss Hart, when he was sharing writing duties with George S. Kaufman, created a classic of theater with “You Can’t Take It with You,” a comedy that is still a repertory staple to this day. But he also wrote solo, and his last play, “Light Up the Sky,” has undergone a revival since 2009. This screwball comedy is a satire of theater itself, with a young playwright being put through the emotional wringer as his play is heralded, then bombs, then earns respect. Along the way, Mr. Hart writes delicious roles for every member of the cast. And that’s one of the reasons that SBCC Theatre Group’s R. Michael Gros has chosen it for this current season. “Light Up the Sky” runs through March 21.

“Hart shows his characters in the most loving moments but also when they’re at each others’ throats due to anxiety and ego,” Mr. Gros says. In the end, this is an affectionate play, and contemporary audiences would have spotted satirical jabs at Broadway starts Gertrude Lawrence, Billy Rose and Guthrie McClintic, but for today’s audience it won’t matter. Mr. Hart trades in archetypes, hilarious ones.

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