Since its founding in 1991, Performance Carmel has consistently brought world-class performance art to Monterey County. The lineup for the ''98-''99 season of Performance Carmel was released recently, and it features a schedule that equals--or surpasses--any of the past seasons in terms of creative artistry and ethnic diversity. The coming season, which opens on Oct. 10, features performers from Ireland to Watts, with a significant trip to South America along the way.

The season opens with a performance by the high-energy Reduced Shakespeare Company of their most recent show, The Complete History of America (Abridged). This is the third appearance at Performance Carmel by the RSC (previously they performed both The Compete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) and The Bible: The Complete Work of God (Abridged),) and audiences in the sold-out houses for both of RSC''s earlier shows can testify to the side-splitting, breakneck humor and sight gags that accompany the troupe''s simplified retelling of oft'' told stories.

Brian Donoghue, artistic director of the series, describes the second group to perform, Diavolo (Nov. 7), as "a dance company, but it''s physical theater dance. They come from the discipline of modern dance where it began to take on other elements, like set pieces. They sort of fling themselves into the air with complete abandonment; they leap, and look like they''re flying-they''re very physical with one other...you wonder how they can survive the physical torture." Donoghue also says that audiences familiar with Cirque du Soleil will find comparisons between that company and Diavolo.

On Jan. 9, popular Scottish/Irish musical group Altan comes to Performance Carmel. The group, named after a lake in Ireland, blends traditional Celtic music from Scotland and Ireland with contemporary influences. The music ranges from lively jigs and reels to ethereal, almost otherworldly laments performed by the charismatic quintet.

Donoghue describes the trio of men who comprise Watts Prophets (Feb. 6) as "young men who came out of the Watts riots and sort of formed to express themselves in poetry and music. They''ve sort of changed with the times. A lot of their early work was coming out of the riots, with a lot of anger. I wouldn''t say they''ve mellowed; in the beginning they were pointing to a problem, now they''re part of a solution." The group came out of the Watts Writers Workshop created by Bud Schulberg (the Academy Award-winning screenwriter for On the Waterfront) following the riots in 1965. The group performs their written works accompanied by a jazz ensemble.

Perla Batalla (March 13) offers "Latin-tinged pop music" that she writes, arranges and performs. Batalla, a first-generation Mexican American, grew up listening to popular Mexican music in her parents'' record store, but says her influence range from Muddy Waters to Tom Jones. She''s sung back up with a diverse range of performers from k.d. lang to Leonard Cohen.

Blue Palm performs April 17. "Blue Palm is a sort of ''90s-style, man-and-wife comedy team," says Donoghue. "We refer to them as a postmodern [George] Burns and [Gracie] Allen." The duo offers a range of comedic sketchs that deal with contemporary issues and relationships. But don''t look for laughs alone. "They also have movement," says Donoghue. "They''re trained dancers, so the movement is pretty interesting as well."

And closing out the season series will be contemporary dance troupe 33 Fainting Spells. "They''re very bright, strong dancers as well as choreographers," says Donoghue. The troupe is directed by Seattle choreographers Dayna Hanson and Gaelen Hanson (no relation). Donoghue says the troupe is "more of a contemporary dance company as opposed to Diavolo, which is sort of movement theater." For this performance, 33 Fainting Spells will present their show "Maria the Storm Cloud," which is described as "blending eloquent use of props, absurd theatricality and an eclectic score for cello and piano in a gripping examination of romance and longing."

For more information and to inquire about season tickets, call 624-2996.

Opening

Always...Patsy Cline Friday and Saturday, 8pm. Musical Revue. The Western Stage brings its production of Always to The Wharf Theater, turning the stage into the Grand Ole Opry for a musical tribute to country singer Patsy Cline, who died tragically in a plane crash in 1963. Told through the eyes of her long-time pen-pal Louise Seger, this show features a live band and more than 20 of Cline''s greatest hits, including "I Fall to Pieces" and "Crazy." The Wharf Theater, Fisherman''s Wharf, Monterey. 375-2111/755-6816. $20/general; $10/children; $18/seniors. Through: 10/31.

Antony & Cleopatra Friday (preview), 7:30pm; Saturday, 7:30pm; Sunday 5pm. Drama. This production of Shakespeare''s tragic historical romance looks a lot different than the $30-million De Mille film. Innovative cutting by Dorian Ellis and PacRep Artistic Director Stephen Moorer results in a significantly shorter play, with just seven characters, focusing on the love story rather than the wars and battles (although there are still some of those). The story moves from Rome to Egypt as Antony pursues the woman he loves but can''t have. Starring MaryAnn Schaupp as the Egyptian queen and John Farmanesh-Bocca as the love-struck Roman, the play also features Meghan Marx as Octavia, Stephanie Whigham as Charmian, Michael Jacobs as Enobarbus, Julian Framstad as Octavius and Paul Jennings as Thidius. Golden Bough Theatre, Monte Verde Street between 8th and 9th avenues, Carmel. 622-0700. $15/general; $10/children; $10/seniors. Through: 10/11.

Children of Eden Friday and Saturday, 8pm; Sunday, 2pm. Musical Comedy. Called "a little bit of paradise" by critic Clive Barnes when it made its U.S. debut last year, Children of Eden is a new American musical fable exploring difficult family relationships through a creative re-telling of the Biblical stories of the Creation, Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, and Noah''s Ark. Written by Stephen Schwartz >(Pippin, Godspell) in collaboration with John Caird, co-director of Les Miserables, the play''s musical range extends from gospel to oratorio, from ballad to swing. Tom Humphrey directs a cast of 65 with Lorenzo Aragon and Anne Marie Hunter. The Western Stage, main stage of the Performing Arts Center, Hartnell College, 156 Homestead Ave., Salinas. 755-6816/375-2111. $20/general; $10/children; $18/seniors. Through: 9/20.

Collected Stories Friday and Saturday, 8pm; Sunday, 5pm. Drama. Collected Stories, a finalist for the 1997 Pulitzer Prize, follows two women-one a successful short story writer, the other her graduate student and eventual protege-through a complicated six-year relationship that passes through adoration, betrayal and bitterness to a tragic, if not entirely unexpected, conclusion. Donald Margulies, who won the 1992 Obie for Sight Unseen, wrote the play at the 1995 Sundance Institute Playwrights Lab. Neva Hahns and Jessamay Howell are directed by Conrad Selvig in this MPC Players production. Cherry Hall, 4th Avenue and Guadalupe Street, Carmel. 646-9478. $12/general; $10/children; $10/seniors. Through: 9/27.

Now Playing

Ghost of the Ozarks Thursday, Friday and Saturday, 8pm. Melodrama. Yet another in the First Theater''s wide repertoire of 19th-century melodramas, this one was made into a John Wayne movie titled The Shepherd of the Hills. The story is set in Arkansas, but it could be anywhere USA. Plenty of hissing and booing of evil villains, weeping for maidens, and cheering of stalwart heroes. California''s First Theater, Scott and Pacific streets, Monterey. 375-4916. $10/general; $5/children; $8/seniors. Through: 11/3.

Of Mice And Men Friday & Saturday, 8pm; Sunday, 7pm. Drama. Unicorn Theater revives their successful adaptation of Steinbeck''s tale about friendship, dreams and loyalty. Rob Foster plays Lenny, with Thomas Burke and Jody Gilmore switching off as George. Unicorn Theater, 320 Hoffman Ave., Monterey. 649-0259. Through: 9/13.

Pinocchio Saturday, 2pm and 4pm; Sunday, 3pm. Children. The Unicorn Theatre interprets this classic scary fairy tale that lets kids know the terrible things that can happen to them if they tell a lie. Like, your nose can grow halfway across the room. But if you''re very, very apologetic, you might be rewarded by turning from a wooden puppet into a real little boy, like Pinocchio did. Unicorn Theatre, 320 Hoffman Avenue, Monterey. 649-0259. $5/general; $5/children; $5/seniors. Through: 9/13.

Shimmer Sunday, 2pm. Drama. PacRep Artistic Director Stephen Moorer performs a disturbing 75-minute monologue of an adult looking back on his experiences as a 16-year-old growing up in a Midwest home for boys. The subject matter isn''t for everyone, and it''s hard to keep audience attention fixated on the nearly-bare stage, but Moorer presents a compelling portrayal, moving back and forth in time as he recreates the brutal world of a boys'' home. Circle Theater at the Golden Bough, Casanova Street, between 8th and 9th avenues, Carmel. 622-0100. $15/general; $10/children; $10/seniors. Through: 10/7.

Tapping the Glass Wednesday, 7:30pm. Drama. Jeanne Wooster presents the final offering in PacRep''s Solo Series with her one-woman show that mixes music and monologue. Tapping the Glass follows Wooster through her final year of college in Philadelphia, as she tries to keep afloat by relying on her friends and her music, spending many a long night at Dirty Frank''s Bar, tapping the glass "in expectation of redemption and enlightenment." Directed by Kathy Deskins-Jacobs.. Circle Theater at the Golden Bough, Casanova Street between 8th and 9th avenues, Carmel. 622-0100. $15/general; $10/children; $10/seniors. Through: 10/10.

The Wizard of Oz Thursday through Sunday, 8 pm. Musical Comedy. Judy Garland sang her way into America''s hearts in the MGM motion picture, which has become arguably the most famous family musical of all time. Pacific Repertory Theater brings all the songs, dances, and 60 munchkins to the outdoor Forest Theater stage, using the Royal Shakespeare Company''s script adaptation. Walt deFaria directs Melani Mesiroff as Dorothy, and choreographer Gloria Elber tries to keep the in-line skating monkeys from flying off the stage inadvertently. Outdoor Forest Theater, Santa Rita Street and Mountain View Avenue, Carmel. 622-0100. $15/general; $10/children; $10/seniors. Through: 9/20.

You Never Can Tell Friday and Saturday, 8pm; Sunday, 2pm. Comedy. One of the lesser-known works of Anglo-Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw, known for his witty commentaries on turn-of-the-century British society, this is also one of his earliest plays. It is by turns farcical, by turns serious, and was written in response to Oscar Wilde''s The Importance of Being Earnest, which Shaw considered too frivolous. We meet Mrs. Clandon (Annie Shaw), a self-proclaimed "modern" woman, who ran away from straight-laced Victorian England with her three children, and now has returned with them 18 years later. Understandably, they want to know who their real father is. Studio Theater, Western Stage at Hartnell College, 156 Homestead Ave., Salinas. 755-6816/375-2111. $15/general. Through: 9/6.

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