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Sex & Work

Two thirtysomething corporate cogs break free from their 9-to-5 shackles to become globe-trotting toxic waste entrepreneurs in Rick Pagano's clumsy buddy comedy "Sex & Work." Their quest for unlimited wealth and coital gratification is laid out in a series of awkward episodes imbued with the scripter's agenda: We need to take more responsibility for our libidos and the trash we create.

With:
Rico - Steven Schub Lee - McCaleb Burnett Jennifer - Jennifer Siebel Natasha - Bianca Chiminello Yelena - Oksana Orlenko Madeline, Prince Dombulu - Raina Simone Moore Abdul, Mustafa - Patrick Sabongui

Two thirtysomething corporate cogs break free from their 9-to-5 shackles to become globe-trotting toxic waste entrepreneurs in Rick Pagano’s clumsy buddy comedy “Sex & Work.” Their quest for unlimited wealth and coital gratification is laid out in a series of awkward episodes imbued with the scripter’s agenda: We need to take more responsibility for our libidos and the trash we create. Steven Schub delivers an intensely committed perf as Rico, the sex-crazed, wannabe robber baron who sums up his attitude about brokering pollution dumpsites thus: “Hey, it’s gotta go somewhere.”

The action follows success-driven Rico and his more cautious pal Lee (McCaleb Burnett) as they go on a garbage-dumping odyssey that takes them to the far-flung frontiers of Nigeria, Siberia, the Caribbean, Iraq and beyond.

Along the way, Pagano heaps on a plethora of arbitrary environmental “messages” aimed at heightening aud awareness, but at the cost of plot veracity.

The scripter’s parallel effort to equate a man’s drive for wealth and power with the corresponding explosion of his libido is equally capricious.

Supplying the sexual tension are Jennifer (Jennifer Siebel), a tough but sexy, wheeling-and-dealing corporate gunslinger; fast-living Russian goodtime girls Natasha (Bianca Chiminello) and Yelena (Oksana Orlenko); and Caribbean beauty Madeline (Raina Simone Moore), who attempts to bring some integrity into Rico’s life.

While Schub’s Rico exudes an energetic, highly comical stream of greed and lust, Burnett’s unfocused, understated Lee seems to be performing in a different play altogether. His reactions to the rapidly evolving plot stimuli are often a half-beat off the pace.

Siebel’s Jennifer is effective as the bloodless corporate ice queen who wreaks havoc on Rico’s and Lee’s ambitions. However, the blond beauty loses her credibility when she is reduced to a trembling mass of emotional vulnerability. It’s a difficult transition for which helmer Pagano provides little guidance.

Chiminello and Orlenko prance around in various states of undress, but their duties as the ever-present Natasha and Yelena are as confusing as their meandering accents.

Patrick Sabongui instills an impressive amalgam of inner calm and searing hate as the desert potentate Mustafa. He is equally effective in a comic turn as the opportunistic translator-turned-Iraqi terrorist Abdul. Moore is endearing as the woman who believes her love will change Rico.

Popular on Variety

Sex & Work

Lillian Theater; 99 seats; $15 top

Production: An Elephant Stageworks presentation of a play in two acts, written and directed by Rick Pagano.

Crew: Sets, Craig Avner; costumes, Gelareh Khailoun; sound, Tony Lepore. Opened Aug. 30, 2006. Reviewed Aug. 31. Runs through Sept. 28. Running time: 1 HOUR, 50 MIN.

Cast: Rico - Steven Schub Lee - McCaleb Burnett Jennifer - Jennifer Siebel Natasha - Bianca Chiminello Yelena - Oksana Orlenko Madeline, Prince Dombulu - Raina Simone Moore Abdul, Mustafa - Patrick Sabongui

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