Malibu Stage Co. presents ‘Darwin in Malibu’

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Playwright Crispin Whittell's comedy, "Darwin in Malibu," drew laughs at staged reading.

First in series of play readings is presented to Malibu audience.

“Darwin in Malibu” was presented Saturday at the Malibu Stage Co., the first reading of a four-play series taking the stage every Saturday night ending Feb. 12.

The cast of professional actors read the fey intellectualism of the none-too subtle debate-still surprisingly alive-over creation and science. Without the theatre company’s usual elaborate sets-a few beach chairs, a potted plat, a Hawaiian shirt, a straw hat-the cast brought the beach deck alive.

Young English playwright Crispin Whittell’s comedy may find a spot for full production in the company’s upcoming season.

Whittell was born and raised in Africa and was educated at Cambridge University in England. “Darwin in Malibu” is his third play. It premiered in 2003 at Birmingham Repertory Theatre and was subsequently produced at Hampstead Theatre in London. It was nominated for the TMA Award for Best New Play.

Asked how he came to set these historic figures in Malibu of all places, Whittell shrugged his shoulders and said, “It reminds me of heaven. (All the characters in the play seem to be in a transitional moment between life and afterlife.)

One of the bigger laughs of the night came when Darwin’s assistant, Thomas Huxley, commented, “Who needs evolution when you have plastic surgery.”

There is a comic exchange between Darwin and Bishop Wilberforce as they debated whether there were any shooting partridges in heaven (since Darwin liked to hunt) and if there were, wouldn’t it be cruel justice for the “well-behaved” birds to then be shot out of the sky.

Other work by Whittell includes the Showtime film “Happy Birthday,” directed by Helen Mirren and starring John Goodman and David Hyde Pierce.

Next up on the list of the reading series is Lee Blessing’s “A Walk in the Woods” featuring Bruce McGill and Don Most, directed by Oren Safdie.

It is advisable to make a reservation to see these two fine actors perform this 1984 Broadway hit.

More information and reservations can be obtained by calling 310.589.1998. Tickets are a $10 donation.

The Malibu Stage Co. is located at 29243 Pacific Coast Highway.