DIVINE DECADENCE: Alyson Reed answers the hotel phone at 11 a.m. It's the morning after opening night, and her voice is kind of creaky and whispery -- quite a difference from the big voice of the night before. That's because Reed, with the rest of the "Cabaret" cast, was carousing till the early hours at Tracks disco, drinking, dancing and playing volleyball.


Our after-hours demimonde certainly pales in comparison to prewar Germany.

As Kit Kat Club singer Sally Bowles, Reed sings some of the famous John Kander-Fred Ebb songs that recall those darkening days when Germany was sliding into nationalist mania. Back then, when Sally had a hangover, she downed what she called a "prairie oyster": a couple of raw eggs sloshed around with some Worcestershire sauce and down the hatch.

Hangover or no, Reed has to take the yolk on stage every night. That's eight eggs a week. "I tell you my hair has never been in better condition -- I have a real shiny coat now," she jokes. "When we started rehearsing the egg scene, I'd just pretend to swallow it. One day, I started singing the tune of 'Hail to the Chief' and marched up and presented the glass to {director} Hal Prince. And he downed them -- he did great. So after that, I swallowed them, too."

Reed has been touring with "Cabaret" since February, and has been to Cleveland, Wilmington, Miami, Philadelphia, Chicago, San Francisco . . . Anyway, she says she'll be really glad to get to New York and sleep in her own bed. When Reed gets to a new town, she says she personalizes her hotel room by setting out potpourri, candles, and draping scarves over the lamps.

The actress admits to a brief flicker of doubt about playing Sally -- it would be tough standing up to the indelible character that Liza Minelli created in Bob Fosse's 1972 movie. But that didn't daunt Reed for long. "If this was the first time I had followed someone in a role, I would be cringing, but I did Marilyn Monroe in the musical "Marilyn," I did Cassie -- Donna McKechnie's role -- in the movie of "A Chorus Line," and I was compared to Gwen Verdon when I played Lola in "Damn Yankees."

And Reed's Sally Bowles -- blonde-bobbed, British and brashly confused -- is considerably closer to the character Christopher Isherwood introduced in "The Berlin Stories," the basis for the musical.

"The film and the show are two totally different animals," Reed says. "From the movie, people have the idea that Sally's this wacko, but really she's this small-town girl in the big city, pretending she can keep up, doing these things for shock value. I decided to play her as a very real, very simple girl who has behavioral problems."

The real Reed (a "bad girl" -- she drinks carbonated, caffeine-loaded Diet Coke in the wings) is very sensible and levelheaded, far removed from the star-struck, politically naive Sally ("Incredibly left," Reed says).

All of which takes us back to the cabaret: "While we were in Los Angeles, we went to the old Variety Arts Club, which they've turned into a punk club," Reed says. "So I started watching people, especially this one girl who was dancing. And I said 'Look at her -- she's Sally!' She was up on this little stage, with a little '20s headband, and she really thought she was the best thing up there. And that's Sally all over. The punk movement and the world situation that inspired it is very much like Berlin in the '30s. In both times they were afraid, but denied what was going on politically. There was an air of despair, and so they partied a bit too loud and laughed a little too loud."

Divine inspiration: Arena Stage actor Richard Bauer called to contribute to the Pope-pourri. "I just loved the idea that he was once an amateur actor," Bauer says. "And this poem, called 'Actor,' which he wrote when he was a young performer, is about a problem that hits all young actors who are called on to play many characters -- what's the danger of the characters taking over and the man underneath being erased?":

So many grew round me, through me

From myself, as it were.

I became a channel, unleashing a force

Called man.

Did not the others crowding in, distort

The man that I am?

Being each of them, always imperfect,

Myself to myself too near,

He who survives in me, can he ever

Look at himself without fear?

"Actor" and other poems by Karol Wojtyla can be found in "Easter Vigil and Other Poems" (Random House), translated from the Polish by Jerzy Peterkiewicz.

. . . and Many More: "All my children are growing up," says Harry Bagdasian with a bit of comic handwringing. Bagdasian, who just saw his daughter off to her first day of school, is now seeing New Playwrights' Theater, which he founded, turn 15. The birthday will be celebrated on Wednesday with a benefit party, and this is one occasion when practical gifts are welcome -- proceeds from the $115 tickets will go for building repairs and a new furnace (the evening's subtitle is "A Celebration of Renaissance and Reconstruction"). What you'll get out of it is cocktails, hors d'ouevres, a buffet dinner and entertainment by Karen Akers, the cast of NPT's "A Sondheim Evening," Burnett Thompson and his jazz orchestra, and some surprise guests. Call 232-4527.

Attention Arts-Lovers: The free Monday Night at the National performance series may be a good way to meet a significant other. At both performances of Monday's open backer's audition for the musical "Onward Victoria!," program director Kathleen Barry insisted -- commanded -- audience members to introduce themselves to someone they don't know. "I won't start the show until you do it -- and don't think I'm not watching you," says the extroverted Barry, who teaches executives how to present themselves on television.

"Late one night, I thought, 'There are so many lonely people in this city, and as long as I'm up there being the village idiot, I thought why not do something about it?' " Barry swears matches have been made: "I myself dated a lawyer from the Justice Department, who asked me out after several Monday Night shows." Call 783-3372 for Monday Night's eclectic performance schedule.

Bulletin Board: London calling: Arena Stage, The Shakespeare Theater at the Folger and Baltimore's Center Stage are cooperating on a Theater-Lover's Tour of London, November 28 - December 9. Helen Hayes Award winner Pat Carroll will host the tour, which includes seven London productions, including "Phantom of the Opera," a visit to Stratford-on-Avon, backstage tours and talks with designers, actors and directors, and more. Reservations are limited. Call Jennifer Gold at 554-9066 . . . "A Dance Against Darkness" has been extended again at d.c. space, this time through October. Sunday's 7 p.m. performance is dedicated to the memory of Jack Guidone, the Washington actor, dancer, mask-maker and guiding light, who died of AIDS complications. The proceeds will benefit Guidone's Axolotl Theater . . . The other day Irv Ziff, dean of D.C. character actors, received a residual check for an episode of TV's "Lime Street." Ziff, who's appearing in "Arsenic and Old Lace" at the West End Dinner Theater, was pleased about the check, until he opened it and found it was for the grand total of 41 cents -- minus six cents for FICA. "Who says you can't make a living in show business?" says Ziff.