Sorry! Wrong Chimney! a decidedly offbeat but only moderately amusing 1989 sex farce written by Jack Sharkey and Leo W. Sears is Actors Comedy Lab’s Christmas present for Triangle audiences. Whatever the shortcomings of the script, the comic genius and brisk staging of ACL co-founder and director Rod Rich and crisp characterizations from six of the area’s finest comic actors save the day. Together, director and cast add enough pizzazz to a somewhat predictable script to make Sorry! Wrong Chimney! well worth seeing.

The husband-and-wife acting team of Seth and Rebecca Blum are terrific as David and Samantha Tuttle, a pair of newlyweds going through a rough patch right before their first Christmas as husband and wife. When David’s libido begins to nosedive, Samantha is alarmed, and takes extreme measures to rekindle their romantic relationship.

But David is too pooped to respond, because he has secretly taken a second (night-time) job, so he can afford to buy Samantha an expensive Christmas present. Of course, she suspects the worst that there he is having an affair with another woman!

To Samantha, next-door neighbor Natalie Eldon (Amy Flynn) seems a likely candidate. When Natalie’s husband William (David McClutchey), a psychiatrist who specializes in hypnotherapy, tries to help Samantha, he ends up hypnotizing the wrong person Kris Kreigle a.k.a. The Santa Burglar (Tony Hefner) and all hell breaks loose while William Weldon attempts to undo the damage that he has done.

The arrival of Santa’s not so little helper, Sheila (Donna Sullivan-Khouri), with gun in hand, and the subsequent arrival of a befuddled Policeman (Scott Nagel) complicate the plot.

David McClutchey and Amy Flynn are highly amusing as obnoxious but innocent parties repeatedly caught in compromising situations. Tony Hefner is hilarious as an emotionally fragile career criminal, Donna Sullivan-Khouri adds a nice comic cameo as a Santa’s overprotective accomplice, and Scott Nagel makes the most of his brief moments in the spotlight as a Policeman who falls victim to one of William Weldon’s hypnotic spells.

Although cast and crew do their best, Sorry! Wrong Chimney! is just not one of those fast-and-furious door-slamming sex farces that leaves audiences breathless from laughing hysterically. It is funny enough, though; and technical director and scenic designer Thomas Mauney, lighting designer Jeff Besselman, and costume designers Nancy Rich and Bunny Safron more than do their part to make it a must-see comedy.

Actors Comedy Lab presents Sorry! Wrong Chimney! Thursday, Dec. 18-20, at 8 p.m.; and Sunday, Dec. 21, at 3 p.m. on the Main Stage of North Carolina State University’s Thompson Theatre in Raleigh, North Carolina. $12 Wednesday, Thursday, and Sunday and $15 Friday and Saturday. 919/515-1100.

Second Opinion: Alan R. Hall’s Dec. 17th Front Row Center review: Raleigh, NC News & Observer correspondent Adam Sobsey’s Dec. 17th review: [inactive 5/04].