Bobo’s Revenge, at Cafe Voltaire. A serial killer is bumping off clowns. The more glamorous circus folks, the headliners, are unconcerned–the victims are only clowns, after all, and isn’t clowning a notoriously violent form of humor anyway? But Maddie Hairy, the ringmaster’s beautiful bearded daughter, is alarmed and calls in Gumshoe Fly, a Chandler-esque detective who has “forgotten how to laugh.” His investigations uncover something called “the ultimate tasteless joke,” one glimpse of which marks the glimpser as the next target. By the time we learn the secrets of the Maltese rubber chicken, the blind fortune-teller Madame Q, and Fly’s humorlessness, playwright Paul C. Foster has sketched an acid portrait of a cruel, deluded society where, as one of the songs tells us, “Death Is a Funny Guy.”

Bobo’s Revenge, with its intricate plot and dialogue dense with allusions, at just under two hours is a gib undertaking for a late-night slot–a handicap that director Jeremy Hornik attempts to remedy with a breakneck pace that renders much of the text unintelligible. What makes this even more unfortunate is the six cast members’ uniform talent as they sprint through their multiple roles.

Still in development, and accompanied by a brisk minor-key score, Bobo’s Revenge is sometimes obscured by its slapstick, slapdash clutter, but there’s no denying the intelligence and compassion beneath the surface silliness. With a little streamlining, this could be social satire to rival that of ringmaster Quentin Tarantino himself. –Mary Shen Barnidge