Damned Spies, Baum House, at the Athenaeum Theatre. Early in the first episode of Jason Sheldon’s three-part spy story, which takes place over three evenings, seasoned American secret agent Jack Pierce (George Ketsios) tells his rookie sidekick that their assignment is known as a “talking.” There shouldn’t be any violence or death-defying action in this one, he assures his new partner Sarah Bowen (an intermittently caustic Dee Bolos). After all, Jack has killed all the people he needs to kill and vanquished all his enemies. He’s quitting the business to get a real life.

It’s a pity. The resulting opening episode is too short (less than 40 minutes) and lacking in drama or action. The first part of writer-director Sheldon’s spy story offers an interesting flight of fancy, but Ketsios, Bolos, and R. Travis Estes (entertaining as Russian agent Yuri) are unable to make sitting around a campfire negotiating a deal to mine diamonds on Mars terribly gripping. When the bad guy finally shows up in the final minutes (a charismatic Zach Thomas as double-crossing British agent Andrew Grissom), we’re overjoyed to see him and his stereotypical burly German henchmen despite the bad fight choreography.

Subsequent episodes should be better: the agents’ chase after Grissom should spice things up. But the dearth of adventure in the first part, which makes self-conscious jokes about spy movies rather than parodying them, will make it tough to pull in audiences for the sequels.

–Jenn Goddu