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The Ninth Circle

Presented by Crezzle Productions at the 45th Street Theatre, 354 W. 45 St., NYC, March 26-April 6.

Kinky sex, gratuitous nudity, drug abuse, office backstabbing—what more can audience members ask for? How about a redeeming character to root for, or a consistent and compelling storyline? "The Ninth Circle" may satisfy viewers on a voyeuristic level, but the interactions and altercations dramatized are never as provocative as intended.

Playwright Edward Musto chronicles the inner-city adventures of a 1980s mover and shaker named Tom as he travels through the various levels of the personal hell he calls his daily life. On this particular day, however, his frustrations pile on his shoulders until they topple him toward an untimely demise.

Musto's script focuses on aspects of Tom's life that seem trivial to him as well as to onlookers. Career, marriage, after-hours encounters with members of both sexes—nothing matters to the hero, so why should anyone else care? But there are insightful glimpses into romance and work sprinkled throughout.

Director Tom Herman does a creative job staging the individual scenes, but is unable to unify the segments into a cohesive story. Each member of the ensemble distinguishes him or herself in a short time. Gene Forman is cool and confident as Tom (however, because of these traits his eventual breakdown is somewhat hard to believe), and Andrea Maybaum is savvy and sympathetic as his latest one-afternoon stand. Also comically memorable are John D. McNally as the head honcho at Tom's firm, Anne Rutter as a disillusioned assistant who wants out, Rodrigo Lopresti as an office boy desperate to climb the corporate ladder, and Jay Greenberg as an hilarious, nervous lowlife named Jojo.

The adaptable setting by Rick Juliano is another highlight of the production, featuring a surreal cityscape and multiple entranceways. Antonio Villarreal's costumes range from terrifically trendy disco wear to awkwardly ill-fitting doctor's scrubs. Lighting designer Michael Abrams casts a sensual, shadowy glow on the proceedings.

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