Rash
Empty Space Theatre
Through Nov 24.Dear God, thank you for Lauren Weedman.

I confess, Lord, that I had been lost, despairing and listless, because I know that the bombs are about to start falling (Iraq, Israel, somewhere) and that the world is about to end. I have wondered, "Why stay alive?" But now I know there is a reason to be alive, Lord, and that is to see the brilliance that is Lauren Weedman, the funniest woman alive.

I must confess, Lord, that I had never seen Ms. Weedman perform before, and I now heartily regret and repent of this. I hereby vow that I will see every show she ever does again in Seattle, so help me, Lord.

There is so much in Rash to thank you for, Lord. Thank you for the multitude and richness of the human creatures Weedman manifests in this one-woman show--from the ultra-plastic, passive-aggressive TV director to the crotch-grabbing fag music teacher to the ultra-pissed-off-but-oh-so-mellow Buddhist meditation teacher to about 20 others. Thank you also for composer-guitarist David Russell and the band that provides Weedman with an ear-splattering mix of Vegas rock/easy-listening cheese to which she sings, dances and writhes.

Thank you, Father, for forgiving Weedman for her impersonation of the "well-hung" man that may have hit you and yours a bit close to home. But, Lord, do not forgive anyone who does not run out right now and get a ticket to this show. REBECCA BROWN

Loot

Intiman Theatre

Through Nov 12.The performances in Intiman's Loot run from impressive to glorious. Directed by Craig Lucas, the ensemble plays this naughty Joe Orton classic (my favorite) off with a tight, quick, and quippy verve. Banks are robbed, murder is plotted, corpses are bandied about like badminton birdies, authority is grossly perverted (or accurately deconstructed and portrayed with sly poetic irony--your choice), young sodomites abound and thrive, and the best in bad behavior is rewarded in the end.

It's like somebody read my diary.

As usual, I could eat Nick Garrison up with a spoon. Like a really deranged Joan Collins, he chews through the toothsome role of Fay, the tightassed yet murderously upwardly mobile nurse who resembles, well, a really deranged Joan Collins. But unlike much else I've seen Nick do, Loot is not transmogrified into a "Nick Garrison Production," with the majority of the cast breathlessly trying to make an impression around Garrison's gargantuan stage persona. With Nick, the smallest facial expression is an extravaganza--and probably visible from outer space--and his comic technique runs strong. (The gutbustingly funny way that he pronounces "Mrs. McLeavy" is alone worth half the ticket price.)

Be sure to keep your eye on feisty Daniel Eric Gold, as the energetically amoral on-again-off-again bugger Hal. (FYI: Gold spends half the first act in his BVDs, and the phrase "visible from outer space" occurs to me again, for some reason.)

But if any actual scene stealing went on in this production, R. Hamilton Wright gets the credit. As the curious, inexhaustible, evasive Truscott, Mr. Wright smolders, keeping the pace brisk and punchy, inevitably stoking Truscott's eccentricities into a delightful bonfire of insanity that left me gleefully exhausted. ADRIAN RYAN

Two for the Seesaw

IN-G Productions at Freehold's

East Hall Theatre

Through Nov 8.On a seesaw, there is up, down, and for a brief moment, even. So too goes the love affair between a Nebraska lawyer and a dancer living on unemployment in William Gibson's 1958 play.

After running to New York to escape his suffocating dependence on his wife's family, Jerry Ryan meets Gittel Mosca, a mostly failed dancer cursed with a string of bad relationships and a crippling ulcer. A casual night on the town turns into something much more, as they begin to believe they can help fill each other's (figurative) empty spaces.

Jerry begins to depend on Gittel as a homemaker while he restarts his career, and she depends on him to help her start a dance school. We expect the ensuing romance to lead to a happy marriage, but Gibson's play is more complex and ultimately more satisfying. While Gittel and Jerry find some comfort in each other's company, they eventually realize that it hasn't been the world working against them, but themselves. They must pull themselves up by their bootstraps--but by themselves. In the end, both characters are exactly where they were before, only moving apart with strengthened self-resolve and self-worth.

With fluid direction from Mark Dias, actors Kevin Brady and Jenna Hawkins excel in portraying this relationship in all its hollow loneliness. We see two people on stage actually creating warmth to chase off the cold absences in their lives. Brady plays the struggling salary man with outstanding coolness--he thinks he knows what he wants and will work through the night in shirtsleeves until he gets it. Hawkins fills the beat-up bohemian dancer with all the life of New York itself. She's charismatically tough and can throw out lines like "Jake's a penny candy--you're a 10-buck box filled with cellophane" as if they were jazz riffs.

One can only hope that this outstanding night of theater from the newly formed IN-G Productions is typical of the company's future efforts--great dramatic productions of great dramatic plays. GREGORY ZURA