08/01/2002 11:00PM

Caper's the thing in play set at Stardust

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CEDAR CITY, Utah - "The Stardust Caper," a play about a gambler who bets he will die of natural causes in the Stardust race and sports book, was staged for the first time Thursday and Friday at the Utah Shakespearean Festival.

Director George Judy describes it as "Guys and Dolls" meets the "Twilight Zone." That's pretty close, as the world of sports betting and the worlds of religion and mysticism clash in Jerry L. Crawford's script.

"The Stardust Caper" is part of the festival's plays-in-progress series, held at the downtown theater on Main Street. There is no scenery, no props, no costumes, and the actors read their lines from scripts. It's a bit of a stretch to imagine the Stardust book while in a theater in Utah, one of the few states without any legal gambling.

But the cast, under the direction of George Judy, pulled it off despite only three rehearsals. The actors stared at the imaginary betting boards as if all the games were listed, and played off each other admirably. The cast members are all part of the festival's company of actors and played their roles convincingly, even though most had never made a bet before.

The main purpose of the plays-in-progress series is for the writer and director to see how a script plays out on stage - both in language and the movement of the actors - and the performance is followed by a question-and-answer session with the audience.

Crawford said he already plans to implement some changes that were suggested by the capacity crowd of 128 on Thursday and Friday's 75-person audience. Crawford received kudos from Friday's crowd for his effort in making the jargon of the sports betting world clear for the uninitiated, but he was still looking to improve some of the scenes.

"The Stardust Caper" will be performed one more time at the festival - at 10:15 a.m. on Aug. 27 - though Crawford and his producers are trying for a grant that would put it in production in two years.

Malpractice legislation passed

Early Thursday morning, the Nevada state legislature unanimously passed a bill that is being proclaimed as an end to the medical malpractice crisis that has led doctors leave the state or retire.

Doctors have complained that their malpractice insurance rates have tripled in the past year because of huge jury awards and settlements and sought relief in the form of a tort reform bill that limits "pain and suffering" damages to $350,000.

The special session was called by Gov. Kenny Guinn, who has made this issue one of his top priorities the past few months (in addition to the fight against the Yucca Mountain nuclear repository).

The bill was passed at 4:27 a.m. after four days of discussions. The law takes effect Oct. 1.

Don't touch the feet

The Clark County Commission passed new lap dance rules for gentlemen's clubs that will become effective Sept. 1. Previously, lap dancing was technically illegal in the county, but the rules were so vague that it was never enforced.

Dancers will be forbidden from making contact with a customer's genitals, but may still rub against a leg or other part of the body, though not the feet. In addition, tipping in a G-string is prohibited. All tipping must be done hand to hand.

The commission's original proposal called for a six-foot gap between entertainer and customer.

Gentlemen's clubs within city limits are not subject to the new rules, which also require dancers to be 21.

Back in the legislative ring

U.S. senators Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) have squared off the past two years on the college betting bill ban that was once as pet cause of McCain's. Reid and other Nevada delegates were able to thwart that legislation, though McCain vows that the fight isn't over.

Now, Reid and McCain are battling again, this time over a boxing reform bill.

They both want to clean up the sport and form a national boxing agency that would license boxers, managers, promoters, and sanctioning bodies. But Reid also wants to regulate cable television networks that broadcast title fights, while McCain says TV networks are already regulated enough.

Reid critcizes the networks' ability to sign fighters to exclusive contracts, such as Mike Tyson's deal with HBO and Lennox Lewis's with Showtime, and have a say in who they fight.

Neither side is backing down, so the reform bill will probably stall.