James Zimmerman, left, Irina Costa and Trip Davis in "The Misadventures… (Brian Peterson )
The ready-made edginess of hit men, hookers and gangsters is a foundation that a story can either build on or coast on. Writer-director Brian Peterson’s "The Misadventures of Rick the Strangler" at the Electric Lodge takes the lazy route with formulaic characters aimed at those who like their comedy crude and incoherent.
Mob executioner Rick’s misadventures ensue from his predilection for feeding his victims’ severed digits to his dog. This unique take on finger food lands Rick (Jonathan Brooks) in the doghouse when his boss (Rhomeyn Johnson), concerned about the pooch’s potential for pooping traceable evidence, orders a hit on hapless Amos (James Zimmerman, sporting a goofy droopy-eared canine costume).
The dubious premise here is that Rick’s affection for his loyal pet is sufficiently redeeming to enlist our sympathy for a killer nicknamed for his preferred execution technique, but Brooks’ performance, while committed, it doesn’t make up the credibility deficit.
Irina Costa livens up the scenery as Rick’s leggy prostitute girlfriend, who proves handy with a needle and fishing line when Rick receives a taste of his own dismembering proclivity (a recurring theme seems to be that love means giving your significant other the finger).
Zimmerman’s anthropomorphized Amos alternates between dog-like antics and sophisticated existential interior monologues, but the two are more often in contradiction than alignment — one of the least glaring instances of continuity taking a backseat to situational convenience.
More of a frat house skit writ long than a play, the overall effect resembles the crossbred offspring of Tracy Letts’ “Killer Joe” and A.R. Gurney’s “Sylvia” — but this one is strictly the runt of the litter.
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“The Misadventures of Rick the Strangler,” the Electric Lodge, 1416 Electric Ave., Venice. 8 p.m. Fridays-Sundays. Ends Feb. 10. $25. (800) 838-3006 or www.electriclodge.org. Running time: 2 hours, 5 minutes.