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A Familiar Plot and Few Laughs Weigh Down "The Inventor, the Escort, the Photographer, Her Boyfriend and His Girlfriend"

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Much can be forgiven in a sex comedy if it’s funny. The plot doesn’t have to be particularly credible, the characters aren’t required to be three-dimensional and precepts of good taste are rudely shown the door. What it does have to be is so outrageously funny that any of the previously mentioned qualities won’t be missed in the uproar.

A few years back writer/director Matt Morillo brought just that to L.A. with Angry Young Women in Low Rise Jeans With High Class Issues, a show that was played to the hilt by a terrific cast, but mainly it was just hilarious. Unfortunately, his new show, The Inventor, the Escort, the Photographer, Her Boyfriend and His Girlfriend, not only features unconvincing situations and characters, but also failed to make me laugh very much.

In the middle of a New York blizzard, escort Julia (Jessica Moreno) arrives at the apartment of her new client Jeffrey (Jaret Sacrey). He seems nice, but she’s initially taken aback by his insistence on using a script for his paid sex fantasy and the panoply of sex toys he’s invented. As they begin to bond over their difficult pasts, it remains to be seen if that information will bring them together or pull them apart.

Meanwhile, upstairs in the same building, Karen (Isidora Goreshter) is discussing getting back together with her recent boyfriend John (Jeffrey Cannata). They’ve just taken a relationship break, a period in which John had a fling with another woman that he swears is over. When that lover, Molly (Jenni Halina), shows up, however, John’s honesty is called into question.

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Moreno, the MVP of the previous production of Angry Young Women, provides what laughs and genuine emotion there is in this piece, a vivacious performer who knows how to sell broad comedy but is equally skilled at nuances and smaller moments. Although her character as written isn’t very original or believable, she brings it to life anyway through sheer talent and charisma, and demonstrates that she’s a capable dramatic actress as well. Sacrey is saddled with an even less realistic role, but he plays it in such a low-key fashion that he is unable to rise above it. Goreshter brings welcome fiery emotion as Karen, and Halina is amusingly unruffled and loopy as Molly. Cannata is fine as John, but the role as written is so blandly unpleasant it makes one wonder what the two women are fighting over.

As a director, Morillo is professional and gets good work from his actors. There are several issues with the writing, however. Structurally the show is unbalanced, with a first act running almost ninety minutes and a second act less than a half hour. It seems as if the first act was written as its own play, but it was seen as somehow insufficient on its own, so a funnier, shorter one-act was tacked on.

The main problem, however, is that the first act just seems like a very familiar male fantasy of the hooker finding this particular john so much more appealing than her regular clientele that she falls in love and stops working to be with him. Just because Morillo knowingly references Pretty Woman here doesn’t keep the drama from being stale and tired. Finally, the first act would certainly benefit from trimming, as its revelations aren’t so powerful that they require quite that expenditure of time. To be fair, the second act is funnier and more successful. There is no denying that Morillo has talent, but in this instance his invention is a bit of a misfire.

“The Inventor, the Escort, the Photographer, Her Boyfriend and His Girlfriend" runs though July 8 at the Lounge Theatre. Tickets are available online.