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CANOGA PARK SKIN NINJAS

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Financial mismanagement! Auditing! Clit rings! These are the elements of Chris Williams' script, an effort that comes off as a staged business plan with naughty-sounding sex bits tossed in. The premise is that Ollie Hrkac (Patrick Day), a character whose career has been in restructuring corporations for the benefit of shareholders and few others, finds himself "between gigs" after incurring staggering losses and thus free to help audit Circle In the Sky, a failing little porn empire run by the fetching Tabitha Sky (Lisa Cole). She stresses it's the most important thing in her life, but she has run it into the ground because, I don't know, maybe because she's a girl. This being the mid-1990s, Hrkac decides to save her pretty hide by taking the brick-and-mortar business, moving it to the Internet, and riding that dot-com bubble.

The play consists in large part of Hrkac telling Sky just why the old paradigm isn't working, and why an underground Web production porthole is the answer, and how one goes about turning the one into the other. Only warm milk and an obscure Russian novel could provide a more enervating experience. To add spice, there are three saucy porn stars—the exotic Colette (Joyce Thi Brew), the accommodating Sissy Coxx (Karri Bowman), and the rather endearingly thick Cottonmouth (Jeff Cole), who gets upset when people blaspheme in his presence—but they're primarily there to make us feel as if we're seeing something wicked, not to add any real texture to the proceedings.

At first I was willing to ascribe my cerebral shutdown to the business-heavy text, but then the rapacious seed-money provider Chad Cabana (Chris Hempstead) whirled in. Hempstead, while speaking at twice the speed of the others, doesn't necessarily make any more sense than the rest, but we believe the character believes he knows what he's talking about, and the effect is electric. Day and Cole never really sound as if they have any idea what they're talking about. Sometimes the speeches stumble into the realm of non sequitur, making me wonder if I was hearing bad writing or just watching lost actors.

Edward Gould's costumes—and they're pretty marginal (Sky looks like a '70s country singer, not a '90s businesswoman, albeit a poor one)—are essentially the only design element in the production. The lights (Katy Farzanad) are quite basic, required only to illuminate the two folding chairs that constitute the dozen locations. The playwright has made a few half-hearted efforts to scatter something approaching human emotion through the script, but the leaden direction of Josh Machamer gives it the sizzle and verve of a prospectus, only without the cool graphics.

"Canoga Park Skin Ninjas," presented by and at the Zephyr Theatre, 7456 Melrose Ave., Hollywood. Wed. 8 p.m. May 23-June 27. $10. (626) 799-1938.

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