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Utah audiences love the Hales.

In a clean and pretty little theatre in the round, Nathan and Ruth Hale produce clean comedies at affordable prices, for sell-out crowds, season after season.Their latest production, No. 36 since they moved their theater from California to Utah, is called "I Forgot to Remember." The senior Hales wrote it themselves, star in it, and feature 15 of their children, grandchildren and in-laws in the cast. The cast rotates, all except Ruth and Nathan Hale. You'll see them any night you choose to attend.

The audience filled the house on opening night and responded with its usual enthusiasm. Ruth and Nathan Hale are 90 percent of the reason why.

Basically "I Forgot To Remember" is not a memorable play. True, it has a wonderful pace and some funny lines and very realistic dialogue. But the plot is no more engrossing than a television sitcom. The zing comes from watching Ruth and Nathan play Ruth and Nathan.

With white hair and pink tennis shoes and warm Utah-grandmother wisdom, Ruth Hale is perfectly charming as Grandma "Cookie Mom" Larrymont. Nathan, too, is a consummate actor. You feel as if you are in their living room listening to the way they really talk when they exchange lines like:

(on the subject of moving to a condominium)

Grandma: "You'd hate a condominium. You couldn't turn up the TV. You couldn't shout at me.

Grandpa: "Well then, you'd have to change your ways."

Though the truest part of the play is their relationship, the Hales have other plots going on. Through a daughter (played by Shauna Orison on opening night) and a son (Bob Swenson), a daughter-in-law (Sally Swenson), and three grandchildren (David Jolly, Jessica Dietlein, and Leea Swenson), the play explores child molestation, divorce, working mothers, extramarital affairs, child custody and teenage drug abuse.

All these subjects are treated lightly, which is fine in a summer comedy. However, the Larrymonts also have a granddaughter who lies to them and steals their car and a grandson who helps his friend steal money from them. That's too sad to be funny. Nor are any of the adult characters convincingly concerned about the children. The lack of love their grandchildren demonstrate for them is the main reason the Hales' play misses being the sweet family comedy it could be.

Seeing the Hales acting with their children and grandchildren adds to the enjoyment of the play. Little Jessica Dietlein does a fine job as Tony Larrymont, for example.

And even though the play's not perfect, the audiences are no doubt going to continue to be large. If you go to the Hale Center Theatre plan on arriving at least a half hour early. Seating is open.

-THIS SAME PRODUCTION will be presented July 3-4 and July 24-25 at the new (but reportedly very rustic) Hale Summer Playhouse on the Hales' family ranch near Grover, six miles south of Torrey or 14 miles from Capitol Reef National Park. These performances will be staged at 8:30 p.m. in a 200-seat facility built to accommodate tourists traveling through the area. Tickets are $4.50 for adults, $3.50 for children under 12. For reservations, call 425-3589 in Grover or 484-9257, Salt Lake City.