Sex & Work

In this world premiere comedy, writer-director Rick Pagano presents a rather intriguing premise about two young schemers: Rico (Steven Schub), the wilder and brains of the duo, who comes up with the lucrative prospect of parlaying the buying and selling of toxic waste around the world, and Lee (McCaleb Burnett), his mild-mannered go-along friend who gets talked into hop-scotching all over the globe in a quest for money and power. No matter how much they attain, it isn't enough for Rico. In addition to building their empire of toxic waste disposal — "Hey, it's gotta go somewhere" — the boys need their libidos tended to, a lot. So, on cue, a bevy of beauties in the trash trade (Bianca Chiminello, Jennifer Siebel, Raina Simone Moore, and Oksana Orlenko, sharing about a dozen and a half roles) materialize quicker than they do in a 007 movie. Also throw in a multipurpose male (Patrick Sabongui as five characters), and we're off and running.

Perhaps Pagano should have put the boys' overactive libido in another play and stuck to the intrigue of their pesky payloads. The flock of characters in costumes, accents, and locations from Nigeria to Russia to Iraq causes confusion rather than providing zaniness. It all becomes too difficult to stick with, and keeping track of subplots and extraneous characters gets weary. Perhaps seeing a fresh perspective from an unrelated director might have helped Pagano select elements to trim. His staging, though, is appropriately sprawling (on the Joel Daavid set for the mainstage production of Caesar and Cleopatra. There is, however a curious addition to the décor: a loose piece of carpeting that depicts a map or board game, and the actors are noticeably cautious so as not to trip on it.

The attractive cast of players are all fine, especially Burnett and Schub, who bring energy, playfulness, and a believable camaraderie to their roles. Also outstanding is Moore, who has a strong stage presence.

Presented by Elephant Stageworks at the Lillian Theatre, 1076 Lillian Way, Hollywood. Wed.-Thu. 8 p.m. Aug. 23-Sep. 28. (866) 811-4111.