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A cardinal rule in standup comedy is to not laugh at one's own jokes. The neurotic characters in Krista Vernoff's quirky dramedy, which feels like a protracted standup routine, suffer from a sort of cutesiness that leads them to frequently chuckle at their own sardonic barbs. When lame gags, such as the one about a man dying of color blindness, are repeated ad infinitum, the characters continually expressing amusement, the result is inanity rather than the intended gallows humor. The story of a ne'er-do-well descendant of the hippie era and the lovers and offspring spawned from his marriage-go-round might be more at home on Dr. Phil's or Jerry Springer's TV shows than in a would-be satire that sputters around in circles, landing nowhere in particular.

Leah (Michaela Watkins) narrates the saga of her dad Bob (unseen), who lies in the hospital, gravely ill. She displays a complex chart showing the female flotsam left in the wake of Bob's make-love-not-war lifestyle: his collection of wives and lovers (Rebecca Wackler, Suzanne Ford, and Sharonlee McLean), and the resulting combination of daughters and bastard stepdaughters (Watkins, Beth Skipp, and Kate Anthony). Leah strums guitar strings, crooning rock/folk songs written by Don Henley and her dad, as the coterie of female characters flits in and out—squabbling, whimpering, and offering ruminations on the love/hate relationships they have among themselves and with the emotionally remote Bob.

Director Emily Simon keeps the pace brisk, and there are signs that these actors could be quite amusing in a less haphazard, less self-satisfied vehicle. In one of the subtler roles, Ford is credible as an astrology guru who came closest to beating Bob at his own game. McLean's brash standup comic, Bob's current wife, is energetic if one-note. Powell has a laid-back delivery that makes sense as the child of flower children, but she's stuck playing more of a dramaturgic device than a fleshed-out character. Other performances are serviceable but are generally stymied by the limitations of this shrill mix of family-dysfunction clichés and half-baked attempts at biting humor.

"Me, My Guitar, & Don Henley," presented by Ace of Wands at 2100 Square Feet, 5616 San Vicente Blvd., L.A. Thu. 7 pm, Fri.-Sat. 8 pm Jan. 7-Feb. 12. $15. (323) 850-8591.

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