'Etta Jenks' Dulls Message on Porn

Hypocrisy would be an easy charge to level at "Etta Jenks," revived at the Open Fist in Hollywood. Playwright Marlane Meyer conjures up scenes of sex and violence to demonstrate that pornography degrades both creator and consumer.

A more vexing problem, though, is that Meyer and director Dalene Young have made a dramatic mush of their provocative thesis. During 2 1/2 hours of sleazy and stilted melodrama, we stop caring what the sex industry has done to Meyer's porn entrepreneurs.

Jill Kiblinger plays the title character, an aspiring actress who gives up her Hollywood dream for stints as an adult-film star and producer. Kiblinger's fashion-model looks give her instant credibility in the part, though her performance exaggerates Jenks' swing from girlish naivete to embittered cynicism.

Though Young manages some visually daring tableaux--especially during a long scene in a taxi-dancing club--the production never overcomes its plodding pace. Far from persuading us that pornography is evil, "Etta Jenks" instead makes it look simply boring.

* "Etta Jenks," Open Fist Theatre, 1625 N. La Brea Ave., Hollywood. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Ends May 13. $15. (213) 882-6912. Running time: 2 hours, 30 minutes.

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