Level 6, at Zebra Crossing Theatre.
What disturbs me most about Level 6’s Monte La Grosjambe Presents “Sex Est une Femme” is that a lot of time and talent seem to have gone into perfecting something that might have worked better, if it worked at all, as a series of improv sketches. Three adaptations of novels in the purportedly popular fiction genre of early 1960s semipornographic romances spoof lurid tales of love, betrayal, and forbidden passion, introduced by “Monte La Grosjambe,” an oily relic of the Hugh Hefner era who sports a red bathrobe and an absurd French accent.
The evening reminded me of the most self-indulgent and excruciatingly unfunny of the old SCTV shows, of those arcane sketches where John Candy or Eugene Levy would embark on a long, pointless impersonation of George Lucas or some marginal figure on Canadian television. Similarly, the three playlets here are based on material that’s beyond parody: a steamy precursor to The Graduate, in which the Benjamin character winds up getting hurled off a cliff; an Anais Nin-style meditation on bourgeois immorality in the tradition of La Dolce Vita; and a Lolita-ish tragedy of illegal fascination. Trying to skewer this material with a smart-ass, PC, 90s sensibility, the plays rarely trigger any but the cheapest laughs. And the clearly talented actors, directors, and adapters have worked over their production so much that barely an iota of wit or inspiration remains. Even a straight staged reading of any of the stories would have been funnier.