THE UNSPEECHABLE CURSE OF KAPTAIN KREEPEE, Ego Productions, at the Chopin Theatre. Even in expert hands genre parody is difficult, playing off self-conscious conventions that often yield only redundant commentary or empty formalism. And for the careless or inexperienced, parody is dramatic and narrative quicksand. Lizz Leiser and Tai Palmgren’s spastically winking “parody of parodies” bounces its hero from pirate ship to western to sci-fi to noir but remains a minefield strewn with dud cliches, tossed out as though their simple invocation were enough to elicit gales of laughter.

Vignettes weave together compulsively intersecting characters, plots, and subplots. Kreepee’s curse is that he’s repeatedly abducted by aliens, a scheme perpetrated by two stoners who’ve overpowered an extraterrestrial-impersonating, CIA-renegade time traveler from the distant future of 2001. It sounds funnier than it is, given the puns that fall flat, the inane anal-probe humor, and rambling monologues that unpersuasively force things along. Worse, the play’s stock characters do little but remark on their recognizability: it’s like watching action figures play with themselves.

The costumes and staging are strictly functional. Drifting accents, some mystifyingly vague or misplaced, frequently stand in for characterization: Hilary Schurwanz as a gumshoe talks like Seinfeld’s J. Peterman, and Ryan Walters struggles gamely with three pointless variations on a brogue. Still, everyone in the small, charismatic cast has one or two strong turns, and Christopher Trojan and John Springsteen’s exaggerations are consistently good. Jason Fever as the hapless Kaptain, however, gives a muted, line-swallowing performance–where is the raging freakishness of his stand-up routines when we need it?

–Brian Nemtusak