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Playing It Cruel

Two new comedies skewer modern-day selfishness

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BEST SHOT A guilt-ridden cop (Sam Coughln), left, confronts the man he shot (Chris Ginesi) in ‘From Both Hips.’ - ERIC CHAZANKIN
  • Eric Chazankin
  • BEST SHOT A guilt-ridden cop (Sam Coughln), left, confronts the man he shot (Chris Ginesi) in ‘From Both Hips.’

People are scumbags.

They are shallow, selfish, racist, sexist, homophobic and casually cruel. But when such attributes are represented on stage—ever-so-slightly exaggerated—such scumbags can appear as hilarious. A pair of prime representatives is now running at two of the North Bay's most adventurous small theater companies.

Irish playwright Mark O'Rowe's From Both Hips (Main Stage West, through June 4) is a cleverly structured farce in which a monumentally self-absorbed man named Paul (Christ Ginesi, marvelous) comes home after having been accidentally shot in the hip by Willy, a contrite, guilt-wracked policeman (Sam Coughlin, also excellent).

Paul has issues beyond just recuperating from his injury. His timid, fearful wife Adele (Nora Roberts, heartbreaking) is about to discover he's been sleeping with their lonely upstairs neighbor (Ilana Niernberger, strikingly vulnerable) and Adele's scandal-hungry best friend (Lydia Revelos) is on hand to keep things hopping.

Paul's only respite appears to be making threatening phone calls to the man who shot him.

When Willy unexpectedly arrives, with his worried wife (Alanna Weatherby) in his wake, the overlapping tensions threaten to boil over. Then Willy proposes an unconventional way to balance the ledgers, a plot-turn that is as funny as it is unnerving. Some fine direction by John Craven, emphasizing the three-dimensional fallibility of the characters, keeps the emotions real and potent.

★★★★

What Neil LaBute's The Money Shot (Left Edge Theater, through June 4), lacks in dimensionality and plot structure it gains in its sharp-witted barrage of laugh-out-loud lines that serves as a scathing indictment of Hollywood banality and self-regard, Steve (Dodds Delzell, perfect) is an aging movie star with a young trophy wife (a first-rate Heather Gordon) whom he bullies into self-starvation while bonding over a similar sense of prejudiced entitlement. They've gathered at the home of documentary editor Bev (also Sandra Ish) and her girlfriend Karen (Laurie Gaughuin), also a fading star, with whom Steve is about to shoot a love scene the following morning, the details of which they've gathered to discuss.

LaBute's writing is basically just a series of I-can't-believe-they-just-said-that zingers and one-liners, increasingly proving the point that Hollywood might seem glamorous on screen, but under the skin, can often be just plain ugly.

★★★★

'From Both Hips' runs Thursday–Sunday through June 4 at Main Stage West, 104 N. Main St., Sebastopol. Thursday-Saturday at 8:00pm. 5pm matinees on Sunday. $15-$30. 707.823.0177. 'The Money Shot' runs Friday–Sunday, through June 4 at Left Edge Theater. 50 Mark West Springs Rd., Santa Rosa. Friday-Saturday at 8pm. 2pm matinees on Sunday. $15-$27. 707.546.3600.

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