Playwright Amy Keating Rogers has a nicely developed sense of irony. It's her sense of dramatic structure that needs work.
In her cheeky but flawed new comedy "The Stuff" at the Hudson, Keating creates a cast of characters so relentlessly offbeat that they seem contrived.
Annie (Sheri Galan) fled her home in rural Washington State after discovering that her sister Cady (Rachael Cudlitz) was sleeping with her fiance. After a year in the Kalahari Desert sorting things out, Annie returns to patch things up with her sister and family.
And what a wildly eccentric clan it is. Mom and Dad (Dani Thompson and Weston Blakesley) are inveterate ditherers of the most warm and fuzzy variety. Brother Pavel (Todd Merrill) spends his time frantically rescuing animals from the nearby highway. The pregnant and promiscuous Cady, a Corgi breeder, can't make a dent in Annie's lingering resentment, and sexy sandwich salesman Albert (Joel Marshall), who figures in Annie's steamy fantasies, has taken a vow of celibacy.
A big problem is that neither Keating nor director Ferdinand Lewis differentiate much between the play's surrealistic dream sequences and the actual action. Despite Eric Germansky's gem of a set and engaging turns by Galan and Merrill, Rogers' play lacks the rational center that would lend its loopiness the charm of contrast.
* "The Stuff," Hudson Mainstage, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Ends June 27. $20. (818) 789-8499. Running time: 1 hour, 55 minutes.