Sexual Perversity in Chicago
Union Garage, 1418 10th Ave, 720-1942. Fri-Sat at 11; $10. Runs until it loses steam.

I'M REALLY AT a loss as to why anybody would go to the trouble of producing this mean-spirited and misogynist one-act about dating, mating, and moving on. Sure, David Mamet's formalized Beckett- esque language and the emotional extremes into which his characters plunge make it a really fun exercise for actors--but what about the poor audience? Where do we fit in? How are we supposed to FEEL about these unlikable characters and the terrible things they do to one another? I get the sense that director William R. Cole doesn't know the answer to this question either.

Though the play debuted in 1975, Cole has inexplicably chosen to set the play in 1984, complete with suede Peter Pan boots and Bananarama tunes. All this does is give us a smug sense of distance from the events unfolding. It would have been a braver choice to either do it as a period piece or set it in the present, which might have forced the audience to identify with hapless Danny (played by Shawn Law) or sociopathic Bernie (played by Curtis Eastwood) for reasons more compelling than recognizing the same skinny leather tie we all wore to junior prom.

And why is this black-hearted meditation on the inevitable loss of love being directed as a COMEDY? Both Law and Eastwood have been allowed to carry their characterizations into an almost cartoon-like state of mugging, winking, and wiggling. If Cole really wanted to push the humor, maybe he should have taken the two most poorly written female roles in modern theatrical history, Joan (played by Ingrid Ingerson) and Deborah (played by Sarah Skinner), and decked them out in black Japanese puppeteer costumes with little sock puppets on their hands. Nothing cracks an audience up like watching sock puppets being used as repositories for masculine scorn and semen. Hey, that's just a suggestion.