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The Loveseat Theater presentation of Sex, Drugs, & Dinner, a new black comedy written and performed by Candice Churilla and directed by Thaddaeus Edwards, promises a lot of cheap thrills as its oversexed and underdressed heroine, Mandy Chinchilla, navigates her way through a minefield of sex, drink, and drugs in high heels and the tackiest ensembles imaginable. Many in the audience that trudged up the narrow staircases to the third floor of Ringside in Durham last Saturday night surely expected a good time from Mandy and cohorts. What they got was an episodic comedy — in reality, a bunch of one-liners back to back to back.
Candice Churilla is, of course, hilarious as the funniest White Trash heroine since Roseanne Conner. Although tough-talking and potty-mouthed and addicted to liquor, drugs, and bad boys, Mandy never quite becomes the slut's slut that the audience expects.
David Berberian is alternately amusing and really, really annoying as roly-poly Anthony Flannigan, the overconfident overweight older man who, quite improbably, wins Mandy's heart and convinces her to marry him and settle down in what turns out to be a life of sheer boredom, with Anthony on the road (and secretly on the prowl) more than he is home.
Mark Jeffrey Miller and Deborah Winstead provide comic relief as Mandy's White Trash parents Mike and Kathy Chinchilla; Steve Warnock of Transactors Improv Co. transforms spoiled-rich-boy gym owner Kenny Short into an offensive gay stereotype; J. Evarts is amusing as Mandy's slacker friend and confidant Poppyseed Slackwell; Timothy Cole is a really smooth operator as Mandy's smarmy accountant/lover Dick Shakeshaft; and Eric Morales is good Ryan Kent, the belated Mr. Right who finally may save Mandy from her sordid situation after she breaks up with adulterous Anthony Flannigan.
The cramped quarters of Ringside's third-floor performance space, the eye-watering and sinus-clogging cloud of second-hand smoke generated by chain-smoking Mandy, and the thinness of the script combined to made Sex, Drugs, & Dinner hard to endure and hard to enjoy. Maybe there is the core of a successful one-woman show here, but in its current form Sex, Drugs, & Dinner promises more merriment than it ever delivers. Its series of short, choppy scenes — some only a couple of lines long — is more cinematic than theatrical. This choppiness, too, adds, to the weariness with which the audience ultimate bids party girl Mandy Chinchilla adieu.
Loveseat Theater presents Sex, Drugs, & Dinner Friday-Saturday, July 30-31, at 8 p.m. at Ringside, 308 West Main St., Durham, NC; and Friday-Saturday, Aug. 13-14, at 8 p.m. at The Skylight Exchange, 405½ Rosemary St., Chapel Hill, NC. $10. 919/368-5896 or firstname.lastname@example.org.