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Intrigue With Faye

Presented by MCC Theater, casting by Bernard Telsey Casting, at the Acorn Theatre, 410 W. 42 St., June 11-July 16.

Despite their reputations as two of TV's sexiest stars, Benjamin Bratt ("Law & Order") and Julianna Margulies ("ER") fail to ignite any sparks in Kate Robin's "Intrigue With Faye," presented by MCC Theater at the Acorn Theatre. They play Kean and Lissa, a dysfunctional unmarried-living-together pair. Lissa is a therapist. Ironically, she spends her days advising couples on how to make their relationships work when she can't develop trust in her own. Kean is a documentary filmmaker who can't seem to finish his latest project or commit to Lissa. After one infidelity too many on Kean's part, this neurotic duo decides to videotape each other's every waking moment. They rationalize this Orwellian maneuver with the belief that if someone is always watching them, they'll behave and grow.

The video gimmick is an interesting premise and Robin has some pointed observations on our techno-crazed culture. She sharply examines the increasingly blurry line between reality and entertainment. There are also some blazing bulletins from the battlefield between the sexes. But even in "Dance of Death" and "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?," two classics of love-hate links, there is tenderness between the combatants. Bratt and Margulies convey the needy give and take of a power struggle, but there's no passion between them. In the opening scene, we watch them begin to make love. Then Kean becomes involved with household details and Lissa starts a fight over the interruption. The sexual energy never takes hold again, nor is an emotional bond established. We don't believe these two care about each other and, as a result, neither does the audience.

Jim Simpson does a polished job of directing, but, unfortunately, the highlights can be seen on a giant video screen upstage. The wittiest performances are delivered on tape by Swoosie Kurtz and Craig Bierko, plus Gretchen Mol as a flirtatious producer friend of Kean's. You know you're in trouble when videos (here designed by Dennis Diamond) outshine live performers.

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