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Venus Theatre Company Artistic Director Deborah Randall jokes that the reason she chose to stage Cigarettes and Moby Dick in a space the size of a modest apartment is because she was tired of “struggling to fill seats.” Staged in three small rooms above the Warehouse Theater, the play can accommodate an audience of only 20, and those few rarely remain seated for more than a few minutes: In the two-hour-and-40-minute production, the frequently half-clothed cast rushes through the set’s three cramped rooms, audience in tow. Set in contemporary New York during Fleet Week, Cigarettes is a study of its lead, Miranda (Monalisa Arias), who flutters between a turbulent relationship with Lila (Laura Rocklyn) and flings with sailors known as John 1, John 2, and John 3. Playwright Migdalia Cruz turns out plenty of lively speeches, but her script has a tendency to trip up on its own pacing: In one scene, an argument between Miranda and Lila climaxes when one slices her tongue with a razor and the other grabs the bloody blade and draws it along the inside of her thigh. Then, of course, they make out. This sort of mania floods the script, swallowing both Cruz’s lyrical dialogue and her less memorable scenes. The central relationship is in a near-Beckett jittery paralysis, and staged conventionally, it would be hard to watch; to Randall’s credit, the play’s constant changing of venues goes a long way toward providing the structure that Cruz’s overcaffeinated script doesn’t. Another saving grace is Marilyn Monroe (Ellie Nicoll), a fantasy girl who emerges from a picture to fill an almost motherly role, concerned with but unaffected by the crises of those she counsels. Nicoll nails the icon, eschewing tacky Marilyn impersonations in favor of haggard bemusement at her own immaculate status. When Lila spends her birthday in a mental ward following a suicide attempt, Marilyn comes as her own gift, demurely climbing on top of Lila’s bed to strike a classic pinup pose. And during the play’s 15-minute intermission, Nicoll accompanies the audience downstairs to the Warehouse Cafe, where she pours generous martinis from behind the house bar. The offhand delivery of Cigarettes’ cast will likely leave perfectionists disappointed. But for those willing to forgive the occasional foibles of a production staged in close quarters, there’s fun to be had in watching a novel and somewhat risqué production enthusiastically performed. —Jeff Horwitz