Put the word "dark" or "black" in front of the word comedy and the resulting term very often seems little more than a euphemism for "crude and distinctly unfunny". I'm afraid this is the case with Karen McLachlan's pointlessly distasteful one-woman show Betty.

In it, Geraldine McNulty plays the eponymous and exceedingly thick heroine, a lonesome spinster who, on the morning of her 49th birthday, discovers the joys of the spin cycle in her kitchen. After confessing to her priest, she embarks on a bizarre weekend pilgrimage in an attempt to cure her addiction to "self-pleasuring".

While McNulty may be the only person on the stage, it's irresponsible to pin all the blame on her. True, her affected manner of speaking grates, but she does manage to convey a touching excitability in Betty while also differentiating the array of religious nutters, sexual perverts and pious hypocrites she encounters.

No, I blame the playwright. For, even as McNulty's efforts populate the stage, it feels increasingly empty since each new personality is a marked degree less sympathetic than the last, thanks to a script that is as devoid of heart as it is of humour.

As for laughs, there are maybe five good minutes of rib-tickling, which director Kathy Burke could have dashed off more satisfyingly with a filler sketch in her old Harry Enfield performance days. The one - base - joke revolves around Betty's ability for spontaneous climax, but this wears thin by the Second Coming, never mind the third, fourth, fifth and so on.

Beyond that, we're left grasping at the kind of straws of relief offered by lines like: "I had betrayed my (washing) machine, but I had to; it was wringing me out." Or worse, McLachlan's overuse of Betty's cry of "And then I wet my pants!" in an apparent bid to elevate it to the status of an "Ooh, suits you, sir"-like comic catchphrase.

On the plus side, Jon Linstrum's lighting appeals and Burke's connections mean that there may be celebrity-spotting distractions in the stalls. Oh yes, and Betty is blissfully brief (a little over an hour without an interval).

If you're looking for more fulfilling orgasmic entertainment, stick to The Vagina Monologues.

- by Terri Paddock