Suburban Motel–Adult Entertainment/Criminal Genius, Ulysses Theatre Company, at the Athenaeum Theatre. The setting of these two George F. Walker one-acts–part of the Canadian playwright’s six-piece “Suburban Motel” series–seems a magnet for characters down on their luck and suffering from depression, dubious morals, or downright stupidity.

In the gritty drama Adult Entertainment Max, a cop with lax ethics, and Jayne, a disappointed defense lawyer, mix sex and professional favors, but the deal goes terribly wrong when Max’s high-strung partner Donny gets creative. David P. Bryson and Kirsten Fitzgerald have an excellent rapport as the couple, alternately sparring with and seducing each other, but the standout in this den of desperation is Trey Maclin’s portrayal of Donny’s rapidly fluctuating mental and emotional states. Jennifer L. Byers makes a welcome contribution as Donny’s estranged but loyal wife.

Criminal Genius, a dark caper comedy, is not as satisfying. Though Zejlko Djukic directed both plays, his staging of this one is less fluid. And while the preview performance I saw realized some of the comedy, too many potential laughs were missed: the play’s inept band of small-time crooks can be the source of wild slapstick fun, but this company doesn’t always make their endless arguments and accusations entertaining. Vincent Lonergan, Michael Kass, Carrie Chantler, and Julia Siple each have bright moments, but only the simpering John LaGuardia is consistently hilarious.