‘Pardon My Invasion’ a rollicking tale of possession

You could delete any two of the three main thematic threads that comprise Philadelphia playwright Joy Cutler’s quasi-absurdist comedy “Pardon My Invasion” — now receiving its West Coast premiere by Brisk Weather Productions — and you’d still have a quirky, offbeat play that resonates in a number of ways.

Early on, 13-year-old Penny (an excellent, pigtailed Marissa Keltie) shrieks to her mother that there’s a man inside her. “You must be getting your period,” responds her distracted romance-novelist mother, Rita (a convincing Sondra Putnam).

Female adolescent angst, so amusingly and authentically depicted by the versatile Keltie, is one of those three main themes.

Mom’s preoccupation with her approaching publication deadline and her fictional characters, among them the hyper-sexy Honey Babe, leads to some hilarious side effects. That’s another main theme.

It’s not giving away too much to say that Penny actually does have a man inside her. In fact, she’s possessed, a la “The Exorcist” or Craig Lucas’ “Prelude to a Kiss.” The invader of the title is Pvt. Jack, stationed in Iraq, who’s gone AWOL and has magically taken refuge inside the body of this confused teenage virgin.

Jack’s war-related plight, including post-traumatic stress disorder and references to the Iraq War itself, make up the third element of Cutler’s play.

Because other plot elements are so funny (Penny’s body has its first period while Jack’s hiding inside it, and his dismay, disgust and indignant overreaction to menstrual cramps, as physicalized by Keltie, are uproarious), and because the inner turmoil of a guilt-ridden and disillusioned soldier is so not funny, Jack’s thread is the play’s least successful aspect.

Directed by Joe Weatherby on a sleek, tidy home office set designed by Fred Sharkey, the well-cast show also includes wonderfully cartoonish characterizations by John Flanagan and Marie Shell (in an amazing red sequined gown designed by Prem Lathi). Juliet Tanner’s turn as a baffled and helpless police officer who’s called to the increasingly chaotic scene is also notable.

In the middle, some overly repetitive, argumentative dialogue, rather slackly directed, causes the action to sag. The script is a bit overlong due to those scenes. And Cutler’s otherwise impressive imagination falters toward the end. She hasn’t come up with a conclusion as good as some of her best scenes.

That said, though, “Pardon My Invasion” is rollicking good fun in this thoroughly professional production.

REVIEW

Pardon My Invasion

Presented by Brisk Weather Productions

Where: Phoenix Theatre, 414 Mason St., S.F.

When: 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays, closes Feb. 8

Tickets: $25 to $30

Contact: (800) 838-3006, www.phoenixtheatresf.org

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