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Hot Pants

There may be a more unusual way of gaining the rights to a play than the one used by Florida Repertory Theatre to snag Steve Martin's comedy hit Underpants (about a woman who loses hers) but we haven't heard it yet.

Here's how Florida Rep's associate director Bari Newport-ahem-pulled it off, according to producing artistic director Robert Cacioppo.

"Underpants had only been done for a limited run in New York last year," he says, "and then the rights were absolutely not available anywhere in America. Well, Bari got two pairs of ladies' panties, painted them with 'We Want Underpants,' wrapped them in tissue paper and a box and sent them to both Steve Martin's agent and to Martin himself. They thought it was the funniest thing ever, and because we made them laugh, they gave us the exclusive rights. It's a real coup for us."

It should be a treat for Martin fans, too, especially those who've enjoyed his earlier stage comedy, Picasso at the Lapin Agile, as well as his film work. Underpants was adapted by Martin from a classic 1910 farce by German playwright Carl Sternheim, and while the setup may seem silly-when a wife's underpants fall down during a parade, it stirs up trouble of all kinds at home-Martin, like Sternheim before him, uses it not only for laughs but also for a look at the way different nationalities see the issues of love and sex.

"If it's not an oxymoron to say it, I'd call this an intellectual farce," says Cacioppo. "It's very funny, but there's more to it, too."

Underpants will be onstage at Florida Rep Aug. 22-Sept. 14 under the direction of Newport, with Rep favorite Niels Miller in the cast (other actors were still being auditioned at press time). For tickets, call 332-4488.

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