Painted Ladies

Michael Mararian's comedy about the double-and triple-crossing machinations among a quartet of small-time New York con artists is energetically staged but too poorly constructed to sustain any real interest. Mararian attempts to set up a layered series of conspiracies with crook outwitting crook, yet nothing about these doings rings true.

With:
Cast: Thomas Humes (Max), James Kissane (Reuben), Colin Mitchell (Jimmy), Carrie Barton (Monica).

Michael Mararian’s comedy about the double-and triple-crossing machinations among a quartet of small-time New York con artists is energetically staged but too poorly constructed to sustain any real interest. Mararian attempts to set up a layered series of conspiracies with crook outwitting crook, yet nothing about these doings rings true.

Plot and characters are underdeveloped, with strange little subplot bits thrown in that add nothing — including laughs — to the proceedings. Mararian supplies a tidy ending wherein nobody wins, but then again, nobody loses … except maybe the audience.

In a sparsely furnished Hell’s Kitchen apartment, fast-talking used-car salesman Reuben (James Kissane) dominates his passive partner Max (Thomas Humes) as they scheme to steal a racehorse.

The caper is never fully explained, but it hardly matters, as the scheme is tossed aside when Reuben and Max soon come under the spell of a more sophisticated pair of con artists: the mercurial art forger Jimmy (Colin Mitchell) and the supposedly seductive Monica (Carrie Barton). All four embark on a plan to steal a trio of valuable paintings and switch them with Jimmy’s fakes.

Humes struggles to provide some believable substance to the strangely malleable Max, but is ultimately defeated by the meandering dialogue and plot. Kissane fares the best as the vulgar but irrepressible Reuben.

Though acted with commitment and a certain flair by Mitchell, Jimmy’s almost epileptic posturing in order to gain the trust of Max and Reuben results in too much useless business with very little payoff.

Barton is unconvincing as the sexy dominatrix who bends the mind and body of Max to her will. She is much more believable in the second act, evolving (for no apparent reason) into the likable girl-next-door type who just happens to be a thief.

The cast gets little help from director Fred Sanders. There is no shape to the ensemble work other than to get on with the text and do the stage business. David Atkinson’s set and Pete Edwards’ lighting are rudimentary but serviceable.

Painted Ladies

(Tamarind Theatre, Hollywood; 65 seats; $ 15 top)

Production: KnuckleHead Prods. in association with Tamarind Theatre presents a comedy in two acts by Michael Mararian; director, Fred Sanders; producer, Anita Adsit.

Creative: Sets, David Atkinson; lighting, Pete Edwards. Opened Jan. 15, 1996; reviewed Jan. 16; runs through Feb. 7. Running time: 2 hours.

Cast: Cast: Thomas Humes (Max), James Kissane (Reuben), Colin Mitchell (Jimmy), Carrie Barton (Monica).

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