Red Tape, Embassy, at ComedySportz. There’s nothing wrong with most of the premises for this sketch-comedy revue. Cancer, Syphilis, and Polio molder in a nursing home, kvetching about overhyped upstart SARS. Charles X-Gayvier and Fagneto argue whether homosexuals are the evolved successors to Homo sapiens. A pirate captain explains the “trickle-down bootynomics” justifying his distribution of plunder. But despite the soundness of the underlying comic ideas, the resultant bits get stalled in textbook functionality.

Some of the setups are overcalculated, effectively asking a question with only one answer–a too-cute punch line that hovers constantly in the background. Other sketches, richer in possibilities, never find the angle or twist they need to achieve escape velocity; the same jokes bounce off the floor again and again, alewives floundering on a laugh-parched beach. In short, while almost everything is almost funny, only isolated moments are actually so.

Still, the fresh, young Embassy ensemble has potential; with the exception of Gil Hizon, who seemed underrehearsed on opening night, the cast offered the engaging, unfussy character work that’s the all-too-rare hallmark of well-trained improv actors. Overdeveloped or trite personas, accents, and shticks are in blissfully short supply; director Dave Buckman has everyone focused on the mechanics of the humor; and the general approach is refreshingly ham free. Further R and D might very well produce the quantum leap that never quite occurs here.