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FICTION : POTBOILERS: THREE BLACK COMEDIES by Charles Marowitz (Marion Boyars: $11.95, paperback; 256 pp.).

December 28, 1986|Mark Schorr

Oh no, not another Sherlock Holmes parody. But before your eyes glaze over, take out your meerschaum and try this collection of Charles Marowitz's plays. His Holmes is an acerbic wit, Oscar Wilde in a deerstalker, as abrasive as he is deductive.

After a bit of vituperation, Watson comments, "Holmes, if I didn't know you better, I'd take offense at every tenth word you uttered." Holmes responds, "Which would make me fiercely scrutinize why the nine were having no effect."

Besides the tart talk--"Guy Fawkes is the only explosive politician Britain ever produced"--there are enough deft plot twists to satisfy a mystery buff.

A trifle less successful is "Clever Dick," a parody of the Agatha Christie school of six-suspects-trapped-in-a-mansion. Most of the humor comes from the sexual peccadillos of the upper and lower class as they bump heads, and other parts of their anatomy.

Least satisfying of the three plays is "Ah, Sweet Mystery of Life!" It was written shortly after a bitter divorce. The taste of bile is still too strong. An unpleasant misogynism prevails as the wimpy husband, shrewish wife, obnoxious mother-in-law, nymphomaniacal daughter and sleazy divorce lawyer play out the drama.

As with reading any play, one comes away longing to enjoy all three "Potboilers" in the form in which they were intended to be consumed.

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