Contrasting pair of playlets

Borderlines Two plays by John Bishop. Directed by Robert Bailey. Male aggression, sexual and otherwise, dominates ``Borderlines,'' the John Bishop double bill being presented by the Circle Repertory Company. In ``Borderline,'' the opening one-acter, yuppie Charles Graham (Cotter Smith) sullenly flounders and philanders his way through a career crisis. Adding to his problems is the fact that he has glimpsed, but cannot identify for the police, the suspect in a crime of passion.

As if these complications weren't enough, Mr. Bishop injects passing classroom scenes in which a lecturer traces Graham family violence from Scottish border wars to the settlement of California. Charles proves the point in the play's brutal climax.

In ``Keepin' an Eye on Louie,'' the second of the two playlets, the author also keeps an eye on the fragmenting domestic lives of two New York detectives (Bruce McCarty and Charles Brown) assigned to a stakeout.

With McCarty and Brown setting the tone, the lively performance staged by Robert Bailey is comically well served by Joe Maruzzo as a gangland informer ludicrously disguised as a woman, and Colleen Quinn as the policewoman who escorts the gangster and keeps the stakeout supplied with food. Sharon Schlarth and Brenda Denmark portray the detectives' unfortunate wives.

A resourceful company of Circle Repertory actors proves its versatility in populating the contrasting, shrewdly observed milieus of the two plays: glitzy cosmetics marketing in ``Borderline,'' cops and gangsters in ``Keepin' an Eye on Louie.''

The two worlds are joined, if anywhere, in a common raunchiness of vocabulary. As entertainment, ``Borderlines'' is theatrically clever and pervasively unpleasant. John Lee Beatty designed the somber, all-purpose setting, with lighting by Dennis Parichy and costumes by Jennifer von Mayrhauser.

The production is scheduled to run through May 1.

John Beaufort reviews New York theater for the Monitor.

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