Howard Korders play begins like a mildly absurdist comedy about a feckless, dunderhead Florida ice-show promoter, Martin Merkheimer (Brian Ridings), who owes $47,000 in back taxes. When he becomes obsessed with late-night TV self-help guru Dr. Waxling (Joseph Dunn), he decides he must make a movie of the doctors novel, Daniel Strong, as part of his self-empowerment campaign. But the doctor (who has marketing problems) is unimpressed by Martins high ideals and wants cold, hard cash. And the play turns darker. In his pursuit of money, Martin becomes involved with a receptionist (Meagan English) who wants to write gory horror flicks, a shady businessman (Adam Hunter Howard), a couple of drug dealers (Ron Fishback and Anthony Duran), and a strung-out coke head (Thom Guillou), who is political consultant to a conservative senator. The pursuit of self-improvement leads only to sleaziness, corruption and self-destruction. Korders script ricochets between picaresque comedy, morality play, melodrama and a play of ideas; its fun to watch, and director Joshua Adler has assembled a terrific cast. Ridings makes Martins bumbling desperation believable, Fishback and Guillou contribute sharp comic vignettes, while Howard and Dunn lend a more sinister touch. The Complex, Ruby Theatre, 6476 Santa Monica Boulevard, Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; through Aug. 23. (323) 960-7776.
Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Starts: July 10. Continues through Aug. 23, 2009