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Faces of Farce

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Naming your group after Orson Welles's famed Mercury Players takes some chutzpah, especially when you're offering a vehicle that's not even worthy of Orson Bean.

Taking his cue from David Ives's largely applauded collection of vignettes, All in the Timing, Vincent Bruckert strings together a series of short, incomplete pieces, Faces of Farce, that showcase different aspects of twisted, emotionally empty life in the late 20th century. An astronaut lost in space like David Bowie's Major Tom tries futilely to contact NASA in "A Universal Sphere." A perverted suburban couple teases a drunk, lustful schlepp in the self-explanatory "Blueballs." A lonely accountant takes a horny and dangerous woman into his apartment in "The Waif." Bruckert parodies the commercialization of so-called alternative society in an info-mercial entitled "So You Want to Join the Underground?" And in "Three Drunks and a Clean Freak," he transforms the famous scene between Felix Unger, Oscar Madison, and the Pigeon sisters in Neil Simon's The Odd Couple into a depiction of slacker angst.

Occasionally the four talented actors, under the stunningly committed direction of Rodger Kurth, make these unevenly written scenes watchable by throwing themselves into their sketchy roles with unabashed abandon. But for the most part this is one of those productions that make you go "huh?" It's so facile and bears so little resemblance to any sort of reality that I kept wondering if I'd missed something. On the evening I attended, the five alleged farces yielded nary a chuckle from the packed house.

Somewhere up in the firmament, a certain rotund spokesman for Paul Masson wines is cringing.

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