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Tooth & Nail

Gerald (Gregory Mortensen) wants his wife, Ellie (Lynn Odell), dead, only he’s the one with the inoperable brain tumor. In the opening scene of Gena Acosta’s loose-cannon comedy, Ellie’s a riot — a maniacally optimistic chatterbox who practically believes she can change the weather. Acosta’s frothy, clever dialogue and her keen awareness of details have us settling in for a trivial romp, but with the introduction of the Weehawken couple’s three adopted daughters — pregnant Robin (Jennifer Etienne Eckert), childish Rose (Kerry Carney) and sour Dylan (Tara Norris) — and stoned baby-daddy Hamster (Josh Breeding) enters a thornbush of social-problem issues and their pert resolutions, along with Gerald’s addled conviction that he’s Peter O’Toole. As the chaos increases, our engagement diminishes (minutes are filled with overlapped shouting) and Lindsay Allbaugh’s gumptuous direction finds an uneasy balance between frenzy and pathos. But Odell’s rampaging housewife deftly embraces the two; her lunacy has purpose. As the new neighbors whom she’s anxious to impress, Tony Foster and Tom Stanczyk know when to underplay and when to cut loose in a production which, despite its stumbles, has the audience rooting for it to succeed. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Starts: May 15. Continues through June 14, 2008

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