In Heat

Playwright Malcolm Danare’s glib comic vignettes follow a time-honored formula of pairing a flamboyant character with a “straight man,” who has little to do but react to the oddball’s antics. In “Carbs,” the eccentric figure is shrill, self-absorbed actress Olivia (Rebecca Klinger), who takes out her frustrations over botching an important audition on her long-suffering, well-meaning husband, Sidney (Robin Thomas). In “Genes and Chromosomes,” sultry beauty Sophie (Shana Sosin) goes to extreme lengths to convince short, bald fellow party guest Fred (Kyle T. Heffner) that she is, in fact, into him. And in “Perfect Timing,” mild-mannered Paul (Jon Lindstrom) goes on a blind date with outlandish New Age vegan Faith (Mary Mara). Danare’s plays are relationship-driven character portraits, but too many of the pieces suffer from weak narrative trajectories, aching to be fleshed out. Director James Eckhouse’s staging, while vigorous and fast-paced, seldom makes the characters’ psychological underpinnings seem believable. Many of the characters are so grotesque and bizarre, their chemistry with their partners simply doesn’t work — we can’t figure out why the “stable” characters don’t just walk out of the room on them. Still, Klinger offers a funny turn as the harpylike actress, complete with Mrs. Roper–style housedress, while Mara’s dithery vegan is both daffy and vulnerable. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Starts: June 14. Continues through Aug. 3, 2008