PICK UP AX, Stone Soup Theatre, at the Viaduct Theatre. You wouldn't know it from his recent output, but Anthony Clarvoe was almost a good playwright once, as his first play, Pick Up Ax, reveals. Two computer geeks, Brian and Keith, have turned their passion for video games and dinosaur rock into a scrappy, multimillion-dollar computer start-up company. When their stream of computer microchips is cut off by a supplier refusing to sell to anybody but huge corporations, smooth-talking Mick turns up with his MBA, thuggish associates, and a promise to reopen the chip supply so long as no one asks any questions. But what begins as a blistering Mametian morality tale about greed and corruption in Silicon Valley becomes an exercise in self-evident conclusions thanks to Clarvoe's sloppy plotting and penchant for cute digressions.
Still, Stone Soup's production is often compelling, thanks largely to Paul James Bowen's mercurial performance as Mick. Achieving just the right mix of suavity and smarm, he provides a vicious, menacing edge, though it all but disappears whenever he leaves the stage. Of course, Clarvoe rarely gives his other characters much to do except explain plot complications and play air guitar.