The plot hangs on a thread, its characters are neither interesting nor particularly likable, and the acting can best be described as tentative. “Sex in Advertising” by Margaret Elman is structured like a sitcom pilot, with the dialogue consisting of setups and glib responses.
The setting is a Manhattan advertising agency where a tyrannical boss (Thom Goff) assigns a laundry detergent account to his creative team. Facing a deadline, ad writer Leanne (Lisa Roberts Gillan), sulking from a broken relationship, struggles for a brainstorm with her uninspired illustrator, Bart (Jonny Fido). The latter, nursing a hangover and barfing into a trash basket, does little more than exchange flippancies, hit on Leanne and wallow in self-pity.
Add to the unlikely romance of the ill-suited Leanne and Bart the forced caricature of a token ditsy blonde secretary (Jessica Lynn), and a couple of intruding writers from down the hall, who keep bouncing in with virtually nothing of interest to contribute. Office gossip, sex and booze in the workplace dominate the day.
There are some labored running gags, and a couple of surrealistic dream sequences that are neither funny nor imaginative. The playwright never provides the actors with more than cartoon images to work with, even admitting that they are “living in a Beavis and Butt-head episode.” Only Paul Reggio in a minor role seems assured.
The set offers confined office space against a blotchy wall, which revolves into a nondescript eatery. When an actor closes the blinds to ward off the sun, a sloppy lighting design suggests it’s completely dark outside. The author has spent a decade on Madison Avenue, so “Sex” might be authentic, but it’s a wonder any work ever gets done.