Author Mac Wellman wrote 7 Blowjobs in response to the conservative congressional challenge of the “NEA Four” artists in the late ’80s, led by Jesse Helms. Helms is thinly disguised as one Senator Bob (Paul McLane) in Blowjobs, now being produced by the Purchased Experiences Theatre Company in conjunction with this year’s Art-O-Matic festival. The play opens as Bob’s secretary, Dot (Amy Clarke), is handed an interoffice envelope by a courier in hazmat gear. Curious Dot opens the envelope to find seven pictures, which might be of the titular oral sex acts, and passes out. Cut to Senator Bob’s cookie-cutter staffers—a prim Ivy Leaguer and a prim graduate of Bob Jones University (Wellman fails to note the irony of the acronym)—gleefully deconstructing the pictures and theorizing that they might be the result of surveillance on Senator Bob himself. Or perhaps they’re dirt on one of his sons—or even the fruit of Senator Bob’s own surveillance (and therefore blackmail material) on someone else. Eileen (Jeanne Dillon) and Bruce (Jonathon Church) both find the pictures kind of titillating—surprise!—but also see them as a weapon in their office power struggle. Bruce’s boner does him in when Senator Bob—surprise!—a hypocritical Southern Republican, fires him for pantomiming the acts in the pictures. Then the senator calls in his spiritual adviser—surp—oh, forget it—the hypocritical Reverend Tom (Dan Brick), who pronounces the pictures “photos of unnatural acts capable of rendering a full-grown man happy” and suggests that the staffers get down on all fours for a cleansing prayer break. There are some laughs amid Wellman’s wordplay—Senator Bob refers to Bruce’s “sadomomostatistical drive” when he cans him, and praises Eileen thus: “Ivy League flacks look like fags, but they know how to network”—but many of the intended laughs are just flogging the play’s already-dead caricatures. “The act is un-American,” Senator Bob says of blowjobs, “and leads to saggy eyelids.” Set designer Dan Brick makes inventive use of stuff the EPA might have left behind in its old Waterfront office space; the office floor is made of ceiling tiles, the furniture is trimmed in blue and red tape, and Dot’s desk is a folding table with a door on top. And director Kathleen Akerley fills the room with action, including such amusing bits of blocking as when the staffers take backward steps in unison as Senator Bob flips through the pictures for the first time. In the cast, Brick has mastered an unctuous Southern-preacher voice, but the two-dimensional stereotypes don’t give the other actors anything to work with. 7 Blowjobs is, at base, a limp attempt at political satire. —Janet Hopf