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THEATER BEAT

Serving 'Sex' With Satire in One-Acts

May 23, 1997|F. KATHLEEN FOLEY

On the surface at least, playwright Debbie Pearl has it all--provocative premises, a flair for distinctive dialogue and a keen ear for everyday irony.

But there can be too much of a good thing. One suspects that the point of "Sex," Pearl's ambitious collection of one-acts at the Met, isn't so much the content of the plays themselves as it is the lavish display of Pearl's cleverness. Despite their inarguable range, Pearl's dog-and-pony playlets too often reduce sophisticated human issues to the level of sitcom.

The denizens of this "ganglia of short plays" are indeed masses of nerves, urban neurotics poised on the brink of change. "Swan Song," directed by Sam Denoff, shows the ungainly mating dance of two long-time celibates (Tracey Ellis and Tuck Milligan). "Waiting for Yvette," in which the men of a gay 12-step group gather to bid farewell to one of their group who is scheduled for sex-change surgery, provokes and amuses despite Denoff's stilted staging and a stereotypical swishy performance by Greg Mullavey.

Subbing for the absent Allen Garfield, Mullavey proves more formidable as a corrupt cop threatened with exposure in "Interrogation," directed by Paul Koslo. Koslo also helms "The Teacher," an unsavory take on statutory rape, and "Barcalounger," which utilizes a department store recliner as a staging ground for the human comedy. "Pros and Cons," directed by Pearl, charts an ordinary woman's descent into prostitution. Howard Storm stages the evening's closer, "Making Love to Louise," a satire on the ineffability of sexual attractiveness.

It's that faint whiff of the self-congratulatory and the superficial that mars this otherwise sexy and satirical evening.

* "Sex," Met Theatre, 1089 N. Oxford Ave., Los Angeles. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. $20. (213) 957-1152. Running time: 2 hours, 40 minutes.

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