DEAD MAN WORKING (AND OTHER TALES OF SCIENCE AND REASON), Galileo Players, and BEST OF GALILEO PLAYERS, Galileo Players’ SciCo. For the most part the Galileo Players treat their ambitious topics–“science, faith, and reason”–with appropriate intelligence in Dead Man Working. The bit that gives the evening its title spins off a directive that employees give notice before dying on the job. Satirizing corporate inhumanity, the sketch posits a drug–“Lazarine”–that resurrects the deceased until a replacement can be found. But the real payoff comes much later in the show, when Lazarine makes a reappearance.

Other scenarios blend hard facts with human foibles. A high school chemistry teacher embittered by the ingratitude of her proteges recovers her morale. An astronomer and a bicycle messenger share observations. And a winsome puppet-troll defies the laws of probability to find true love. Familiar situations are given new twists: a pacifist leukocyte calls for an end to the war on bacteria, to the horror of his father (“You want to be a red corpuscle? They don’t even have a nucleus!”). On the other hand, a standard-issue fetishist gag is redeemed only by its slick execution, and a segment involving Louis Pasteur borders on Mel Brooks-style slapstick. Overall, however, Galileo’s thoughtful insights are a welcome change in a field glutted with copycat superficialities.

Best of Galileo Players demonstrates just how far the troupe’s writers have come. Granted, Galileo’s touring company–dubbed SciCo, an agglutinate of “Science Company”–is geared to juvenile audiences for whom physical clowning might be fascinating and “poop” might constitute a viable punch line.

But for every original idea logically executed–a drinking game based on recall of the value of pi, for example–there’s a highbrow concept that withers into lowbrow shtick. Darwin’s son behaves like a dog. Extraterrestrials tell a zealous space explorer to get a life. And not once but twice an abusive teacher vents his frustration on his helpless students. More practice in front of an audience should help SciCo. But theatergoers willing to assist in this project are warned to consider their time and money charitable donations.

–Mary Shen Barnidge