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Bad Habits

Two acts are better than one

Theater aficionados, thespians and patrons of the alternative art community -- these are the people that will enjoy “Bad Habits", Terrance McNally’s billing of one-acts that highlight the absurdity of our self medicating society currently on stage at the black box Mission space Theater Rhinoceros. Everyone else should stay at home.

“Bad Habits” runs as an ensemble review rather than as a unified show and we find ourselves at the competing funny farms of Dunelawn (Act I) and Ravenswood (Act II). At Dunelawn, three trifling couples from hyperbolic actors (Brian O’Connor, Sylvia Kratins) to flamboyant homosexuals (Tom Juarez, Brett Sharenow) imbibe Bloody Mary’s, smoke cigarettes and eat high cholesterol foods as instant gratification instead of seeking long term cures for their ailments.

Raúl Ramón Rubio is at the center of the hysteria as Dr. Jason Pepper, a paraplegic professional who is meant to cure all. However, Rubio doesn’t deliver the eccentricity and hubris the script demands. Showman Nathan Lane played the part in the 1990 Broadway revival where his clowning was applauded. Instead, Rubio’s pacing is sluggish and he slurs his words as if there’s actually vodka in his prop martini glass.

Those who stayed through intermission discovered more laughs at Ravenswood, where patients with vices such as alcoholism, cross-dressing and sadomasochism come to be sedated by an unnerving nurse, Ruth Benson (Sylvia Kratins). Kratins has clear acting talent although throughout “Bad Habits” the entire cast relies on gimmicks with only moments of irony and humor pouring through. There is one exception: Remi Barron. Mr. Barron shines first as Otto, the German butler who happily doles out rubdowns, and later as Mr. Ponce, a twitching alcoholic. Barron perfects the self-deprecating silliness both parts demand.

Set designer and producer Suki O’Brien convincingly brings us two worlds of pampered indulgence and it’s not difficult to imagine similar settings for Britney Spears or Lindsey Lohan when they are carted off to their Hollywood rehabilitation centers.

“Bad Habits” delighted off-Broadway audiences at its debut in 1974 but closed shortly after moving to the Great White Way, thus proving that the show works best, if at all, in an intimate setting. Tony Award-winning playwright Terrance McNally reworked the original script for a 1990 revival and director Randy Warren, as a labor of love, combined both versions for the current Square Mama production.

Square Mama is a theater company that reinvigorates and revives plays it believes deserves a second chance. Only the most artsy audiences will revel in the fact that they discovered "Bad Habits.”

“Bad Habits” runs at Theatre Rhinoceros Wednesday – Saturday evenings at 8pm and closes August 30th. Tickets are $25 and can be purchased at the Rhino Box Office (415) 861–5079 or online at [url=www.tixbayarea.com.]www.tixbayarea.com.