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THEATER REVIEW : ‘Deep’s’ Plot Is as Bare as Its Characters

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TIMES STAFF WRITER

“Deep Inside Michael Sargent” is anything but deep. This set of two one-acts has a sketchy, satirical tone. Playwright Michael Sargent appears to aim for nothing more than quick laughs and a few gasps at the show’s nudity.

“Tropical Family” begins the evening with a burlesque treatment of the sad saga of a young gay man (Erik Hanson). Lane’s haughty mommy, named Poppy (Tina Preston), chemically extended Lane’s growth, seduced him and now raises no objection when he stalks stark naked into the room where she’s entertaining guests. When he does don clothing, it’s often hers.

Lane ends up taking revenge on just about everyone he knows. It’s a melodrama played for laughs, but the effort usually outpaces the results. The skin show is brazen but virtually anti-erotic, and as his own director, Sargent overdoes the strobe lights. At least Hanson and Preston seem to enjoy bouncing all over the postage stamp-sized backspace at Theatre/Theater.

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Unlike the first play, “Lady for the Defense” leaves a few questions unanswered. As a result it’s about twice as mysterious and erotic as its mate. That still isn’t saying much, though.

Shannon Holt plays an attorney who represents a company that’s being sued over damage caused by breast implants. She returns to her hotel room after a hard day in court, ranting and raving over the case while her lover (Jason Reed) takes a very long shower (in a glass-enclosed stall), occasionally sticking out his head to offer a word or two of moral support.

The lawyer takes off many of her own clothes as her harangue continues, but it doesn’t seem to relax her. Then the scene dissolves into a daydreamy mock-up of the courtroom scene, including the plaintiff (Shawna Casey) and a judge wearing nothing except his robe (Michael Rivkin). It’s a mildly titillating dream that, like most dreams, goes nowhere.

* “Deep Inside Michael Sargent,” Theatre/Theater, 1713 Cahuenga Blvd., Fridays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Ends Oct. 21. $10. (213) 850-6941. Running time: 2 hours.

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