Met's 'Ellis Jump' a Sharp Comic Romp

Jinx Baxter (Bruce Wright) spent 15 years in a Texas prison, but that looks like easy time compared to the problems he faces in "The Ellis Jump," Jim McGrath's funny and brilliantly entertaining comedy of redemption at the Met Theatre.

Baxter's parole officer, the mocking good ol' boy Cody Hicks (Barry Cullison), could show Mark Fuhrman a thing or two about intimidation and planting evidence. Worse, the ex-con has fallen in love with Hicks' prim boss, Ruth (Julie White), and is being tempted to rob a bank with a lusty barfly named Wendy (Dawn Maxey).

The plot and setting may make for warmed-over Jim Thompson noir, but the quartet of vividly drawn characters, and the tightly written dialogue, give the piece a sharp comic edge. Even without an intermission, the show seems to fly by like an inmate on the lam.

Ron Orbach's taut direction showcases killer performances from the cast, with Cullison both amusing and frightening as the corrupt officer and Maxey betraying a Bernadette Peters-like comic sensibility.

* "The Ellis Jump," Met Theatre (downstairs space), 1089 N. Oxford Ave., Hollywood. Saturdays-Mondays, 8 p.m. Ends Nov. 13. $15. (213) 957-1152. Running time: 1 hour, 40 minutes.

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