SEDUCED by Sam Shepard; directed by Steve Nelson; lighting by Valeria Sloan; costumes by Deborah Leonard; Choreography by Priscilla Barden and Steven Nelson. With Lawrence Redmon, Brigid McCormick, Lilly Masch, Bill Creed, Sam Baum and Ben Sharnik. At The Vault, 1789 Columbia Rd. NW.

"Seduced" is a short play by Sam Shepard about the last days of Howard Hughes -- or "Henry Hackamore," as the ascetic billionarie has been rechristened for the occasion.

Lawrence Redmond, who plays the part, wears a flowing gray-white wig and beard, three-inch-long simulated fingernails and boxer shorts.As the play begins, Redmond is leaning way back in a convertible lounge chair and draping pieces of tissue paper over the exposed parts of his body. Then a smiling obedient aide named Raul is summoned and showered with eccentric orders and inquiries. Then two mysterious women appear from the billionaire's past.

While he can't remember just who they are, their presence briefly restores him to something resembling normal life. When the women leave, he discusses his will with Raul, who is supposed to be the sole heir. Raul wants to see proof of his good fortune on paper, but Hacka more declines. "Paper's transient," he points out. "Write it in the air. The air's the only thing that's permanent." That's when Raul draws his gun.

The combination of Howard Hughes and Sam Shepard is certainly a seductive one, but when all is said and done, "Seduced" is not one of Shepard's major efforts. What's more, the Source Theatre Co. production that opened Wednesday night at "The Vault" -- which is, apparently, the former vault of a former bank at 18th Street and Columbia Road -- has a decidedly flimsy flavor to it. Like other Shepard pieces, "Seduced" must be acted and staged with bravado if it is to be done at all. But the tiny space cramps director Steve Nelson's style, and some of the devices of the production -- for example, the use of Randy Newman songs as background music -- seem incongruous. And Redmond, able actor though he may be, never finds a way to convey the age, the physical deterioration and utter wackiness of the character.