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THEATER BEAT

Putting Satirical 'Faith' in Relationships

September 26, 1997|F. KATHLEEN FOLEY

"Faith," David Hollander's wacky comedy about tortured relationships, puts the "fun" in dysfunction. Among their circle of irredeemably neurotic and narcissistic family members and friends on the Powerhouse Theatre stage, Barb (Nicole Sullivan of "Mad TV") and Phil (Rob Benedict) just might be the most normal. That's not saying much. Apart, Barb and Phil are OK. However, when combined together for household use, they interact like ammonia and bleach. It's a potentially lethal combination that, after six years of intermittent monogamy, the two are considering making legal.

Hollander doesn't have much new to say on the subject of just how difficult it is to find and maintain a monogamous relationship in the '90s. In his somewhat plot-shy but highly eventful satire, Hollander covers comedic territory already well-trodden by Woody Allen and Christopher Durang. However, what Hollander does have to say, he says in a high, hilarious style guaranteed to garner maximum laughs. Director David Downs pushes the action along with the speed and subtlety of a locomotive--a breathless pace that energizes this brisk escapist romp.

The comically astute cast is uniformly outrageous. In a no-holds-barred barrage of fractious one-liners, Sullivan and Benedict work their characters into a funny, frenetic lather as they careen on their juggernaut course toward a marriage made in hell. Other notably ditsy performances include Victoria Stern as a sexually frustrated psychotherapist-turned-dominatrix, and Eric Siegel as Phil's best friend, who has a curious notion of loyalty--and a startling confession to make.

* "Faith," Powerhouse Theatre, 3116 2nd St., Santa Monica. Saturdays, 8 p.m.; this Sunday, 2 and 7 p.m.; Oct. 5 and 12, 7 p.m. only. Ends Oct. 12. $12.50. (888) 566-8499. Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes.

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