"My lucidity is not without its bounds," croaks billionaire eccentric Howard Hackamore in Georgetown Workshop Theatre's production of Sam Shepard's "Seduced," about the last hours of this fictionalized Howard Hughes character. "It comes and goes."
That's an apt commentary on this play, which comes and goes with such frequency that it becomes alternately annoying, funny, exasperating and touching, all in the space of minutes. The problem is that "Seduced," not a major work by this prolific playwright, has largely two tones: rant and rave. But if you can hold on, there are a few insights, a skewed joke and an off-kilter philosophy to carry away.
The play opens with Hackamore, with a scruffy gray beard, overgrown fingernails and only boxer shorts, draping tissues over his body in a futile attempt to keep the germs off. This act is so profoundly loopy that it's enormously funny.
We know from here that there is a wild ride ahead. The dying Hackamore slips in and out of delusions in his darkened room in the Caribbean, spouting memories, opinions and observations. His only company -- and his final audience -- in this nightmarish reverie is his loyal aide Raul and two women he's brought in from his past. Like the mind of a senile man, the plot goes nowhere really, meandering from one thought to another.
Shepard, typically, trots a few deep and illusory meanings about money, glamor, sex and power. But to my mind, they aren't really there, only the same figments of imagination that live in Hackamore's mind.
This production delivers the bravado necessary for the material. Dean Avery's Hackamore evokes the mad wisdom of this over-the-edge man with a touching sweetness. The ramrod Dick Stillwell successfully plays Raul as a tough toady, in a grand G. Gordon Liddy style. Hackamore's two women, Luna (Janet O'Connor) and Miami (Mona Brussat), are apt brassy braggarts, though Brussat is a little heavy on her Mae West impression.
There are some clearly ouch touches, like the incomprehensible stripper number from the women, and all of the out-of-place dance numbers. Their incongrous presence adds little to the mood or plot.
"Come and gone," Hackamore says at the end as he dies, this time talking about his life and dreams. At its heart, this is a play about dreams, which can be imaginative fancies or disjointed musings. And "Seduced," like those dreams, can be both delightful and disastrous.
"Seduced," by Sam Shepard, 8 p.m. tomorrow and Saturday at Christ Church Theater, 3116 O St. NW. Tickets $7. Information: 333-7305.