We Hate the World! Zebra Crossing Theatre.

We hate the play. It’s like a bad poetry slam that overstays its welcome after about ten minutes. This forcedly absurd pseudo-comedy by Chicago playwright Mark Guarino unwittingly illustrates one of its more coherent lines: “Everything starts teetering on the edge of boredom and lunacy.”

Muddled with characters defined by knee-jerk quirks, We Hate the World! centers on yearning Emily, an alienated poet (“Nothing has life”) who discovers that her mother has been replaced by a gun-flailing phone-sex trafficker and her new “brother” is a graffiti vandal who hates art but loves freedom (in the form of an aerosol can). Emily sounds like a bad translation from the German (she says “We take what we look past” twice), whining her grievances to a blues-playing bear boy, a greeting-card scam artist, and a nerdy author who once wrote a prose poem to his penis. At the end Emily has a vision of a moonlit vista, beautifully painted across Rick Paul’s joyous set. It seems significant, but like everything else here it’s a moment only an author could truly love.

The drearily labored humor consists of gag-reflex comparisons like “even the Enola Gay couldn’t wake him up.” Perversely, whenever Guarino seems on the verge of taking the characters beyond their easy oddities and opaque talk, he instead lets them founder on some new bafflement. Director Russ Tutterow wisely but vainly tries to make up for the script’s flagrant lack of substance with abundant energy. Amy Warren plays Emily with dogged despair, and Doreen Calderon gives the surrogate mother a ditzy cunning. But indeed, nothing has life.