Skimpy Briefs 

Lightweight improv sketches saved by full-bodied burley-cue.

Impact Theatre's annual assemblages of short plays have a definite consistency of tone. Although playwrights submit scripts and actors are cast much as in other series, Impact's selections are so fast-paced and funny that it's basically an evening of sketch comedy.

Themed around Impact's current "Season of Sin," these five scripted shorts were reportedly selected from among more than four hundred submissions, but the briefs seem particularly skimpy this year. Just as last year's skits were punctuated by slide shows, these are fleshed out with four burlesque dance numbers, plus an opening bit in which the actors read patrons' answers to a survey about "the last sinful thing you did."

It's pretty lightweight stuff but has its moments, particularly Lia Romeo's priceless Hot Line, in which a lovelorn cheerleader (a chirpy Elissa Dunn) is dicked around by a pathological liar working a suicide hotline, played with a winning smirk by Steve Budd. Meandering but with a nice payoff, Steve's Inferno by David Kongstvedt sees a young hipster (Jon Lutz) get off the subway at the wrong stop and be forced to tour a downsized hell guided by Leon Goertzen as a very fey demon.

Goertzen and Monica Cortés Viharo mug more than act in Matt Casarino's domestic farce Something Went Wrong, but they do so with such charm that it's hard to mind, just as it's hard to stay mad at Goertzen's creepy hubby, even if that dead clown he brought home seems awfully suspicious. Past Briefs contributor Wayne Rawley, who also wrote the rollicking Money & Run serial that Impact staged in seasons past, whips up simply credible locker-room conversation between the three male actors in Two Dudes at Once. As if in response, Brian Mori's Coffee Talk makes Dunn and Viharo chipper housewives straight out of a '60s commercial, gushing in superlatives about common household items and soon becoming uncomfortably personal.

Burlesque dancers Jessica Kiely, Monica Santiago, Rachel Throesch, and choreographer Helen Nesteruk fill out the program enchantingly with various sin-themed numbers, whether they're nuns doing chair dances or angels and devils facing off in lingerie. The saucy dances are less sleazy than cute and slightly silly, performed in retro style with a wink and a smile. If the glue that holds the evening together happens to be in pasties, where's the sin in that?

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