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Beau Jest's 'Samurai 7.0' adapts a screen classic

After a seven-year absence, Beau Jest Moving Theater returns to Boston with a stage version of an epic film: ``Samurai 7.0: Under Construction." The show opens Wednesday at the Boston Center for the Arts Calderwood Pavilion.

Inspired by Akira Kurosawa's film ``The Seven Samurai," the play tells the story of a group of itinerant retired samurai who band together to defend a village for no pay.

The story, says Beau Jest artistic director Davis Robinson , had resonance for his group. The company, which uses improvisation and an extended rehearsal process to create movement-based pieces, formed in Boston in 1984. Over the years, it produced an award-winning adaptation of the classic comic strip ``Krazy Kat," as well as ``War of the Worlds," ``Ubu Roi," and ``A Mall and Some Visitors."

But when Robinson got a teaching job seven years ago at Bowdoin College in Maine, the group went dormant. About a year ago he found he'd be able to take a sabbatical, and he looked around for a project to do.

``It struck me," he said by phone, ``that this project paralleled our own story of actors -- older, grayer, coming back out of the woodwork to band together to make a piece of art for little pay -- and the obstacles you run into when making theater."

Part of the fun of directing this piece, he says, ``was how do you put the cinematic language onstage? How do you do dissolves, close-ups, tracking shots, playing with depth of field?"

The group didn't just stick with the Kurosawa film, however. Thinking about the nerve of actors taking on an epic film put him in mind of Shakespeare's band of brothers in ``Henry V," so bits of dialogue from that play are interspersed in ``Samurai 7.0."

And they're doing it all using props from the Christmas Tree Shop and Pier One.

``We used bamboo everything: sticks, blinds, some grass, a few fans," says Robinson, adding that the company spent about $400. ``We used those simple tools over and over to suggest landscapes, windmills, journeys, horses, and warriors. But it looks gorgeous: It has a beautifully airy, elegant look."

In the end, he says, ``the villagers don't even thank the samurai for saving them. It reminds me of the ephemerality of theater. You put all this time and energy into it and then it's gone. That parallels our story as well."

``Samurai 7.0: Under Construction" runs Wednesday through June 24. Tickets: 617-933-8600,

`Rabbit' run
``Rabbit Hole," David Lindsay-Abaire's Tony-nominated play, will be presented by the Huntington Theatre Company at Boston University Theatre Nov. 3--Dec. 3. Lindsay-Abaire, a native of South Boston, has also penned ``Fuddy Meers" and ``Kimberly Akimbo."

Honoring Wasserstein
Wellesley Summer Theatre Company will host a celebration of the life and work of playwright Wendy Wasserstein on Tuesday at 7 p.m. in the Ruth Nagel Jones Theatre , Alumnae Hall, Wellesley College. The event will feature a panel discussion on the impact of her work on writers, directors, and actors, followed by readings from her work. Members of the Boston theater community, including Michael Nash from Boston Conservatory and members of the Zeitgeist Theatre, will join other actors and directors in celebrating Wasserstein, who died of cancer at 55 in New York on Jan. 30.

``She had the gift of extraordinary talent married to a sweet and generous nature," said Nora Hussey, director of the theater program at Wellesley College and artistic director of Wellesley Summer Theatre Company, in a statement. ``Her legacy is not only that of an important and forceful American writer but an exemplary human being." Hussey said she plans to have the event filmed and sent to Wasserstein's daughter in New York.

`Party' people
Join 250 actors, directors, designers, playwrights, and producers from theater companies across the region Monday night at ``The Party," StageSource's event celebrating the 2005-'06 theater season. The annual Theatre Hero Award will be presented to Susan Gassett, who cofounded and serves as artistic director of City Stage Company. Festivities begin at 7 p.m. at Club Cafe, 209 Columbus Ave. Tickets: $25 ($19 for StageSource members). 617-720-6066,

SpeakEasy Stage Company's ``Caroline, or Change" has been extended one week to June 18 at the BCA's Calderwood Pavilion. . . . Artana Productions presents famed storyteller Jay O'Callahan's ``A Neighborhood, A Town" at Gloucester Stage, Wednesday through June 11. Tickets: 978-281-4433, . . . Cirque du Soleil returns to Suffolk Downs with a new show, ``Corteo," on Sept. 8 for a limited engagement. Tickets: 800-678-5440, . . . The Village Theatre Project will celebrate its first birthday with a musical gala at Fruitlands Museum in Harvard at 6 p.m. on Thursday. Tickets: 978-456-7898,

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