TO SEPTEMBER 26

Stephen Berkoff has given his characters perspective to spare in this sometimes screamingly funny comedy—a self-doubt overload which they articulate to the audience in convulsive asides even as they’re projecting calm to friends and family. Let Frank invite a co-worker home to dinner, and a little voice inside him is immediately kvetching at the top of its lungs. Won’t his wife be ticked that he didn’t call? Won’t his relatives embarrass him? Surely there won’t be enough food, and what there is will be overcooked. Will the friend be comfortable? Will he be comfortable? Will he have to tell a joke? He’s terrible at jokes. He’s terrible at life. Wouldn’t he rather just throw himself under a train? With each of the characters giving vent to similar doubts, simple social situations soon become deliciously complicated. The first act is so uproarious, in fact, that you may find yourself wondering how Berkoff can top it. As it happens, he can’t. Basics—eating and sex—give way to other concerns such as infidelity, workplace rivalries, and dining out, and as they do, the chatter starts to seem more conventional. The pacing suffers too, as director Howard Shalwitz can’t seem to think of ways to redeem scenes that smack of ’60s agitprop (at one point each character steps forward in turn to say what he’s afraid of). But enough kvetching. The cast, caught in the stage equivalent of cinematic freeze-frames whenever a character has an aside, is so sublimely crazed that the post-intermission letdown doesn’t begin to negate the first half’s hilarity. This production, revived from last season, is currently sharing the Woolly Mammoth stage with Consenting Adults’ Her Aching Heart; its performances are Wednesday through Friday at 8 p.m. and Saturday at 5:30 & 9 p.m., with matinees Sunday at 2 p.m. at Woolly Mammoth Theater Company, 1401 Church St. NW. $16.50-22.50. (202) 393-3939. (Bob Mondello)

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