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The trio of performers on board this quirky and often entertaining musical venture has enough comic energy to send an audience on a trip to the outer limits of hilarity. What the performers lack is a ship commander to control their raw efforts and a polished vehicle that can take them on a worthwhile journey.

In its current condition, Bennett Jones' 75-minute musical comedy (with co-written songs by Hunter Ochs) is eager to please and not exactly a dramatic revelation. Three actors (Jones, Kurt Carley, and Jennifer Koshatka) play 18 characters in an epic tale spanning millions of years on Mars and Earth. It is a bleak, Soylent Green-ish future: Newspaper salad is a delicacy, and "wet mammal" is the trendiest new sound in pop music culture. Meanwhile on Mars, hands-free urinals are all the rage, and a ruthless immortal force named Lantac waits to kiss his long-lost love Zanacaine, trapped in a potato-shaped meteorite on Earth. But their lips must never touch, for at the point of oral contact between these two ancient rulers, the entire universe will implode.

The show is overflowing with talent from Jones and his two cohorts. Highlights include the poverty-stricken earthling Purcella's (Koshatka) precious lullaby to her potato, followed by a waltz with a life-size embodiment of the spud. Carley offers a fine portrayal of Cab, spoiled son of the president of Mars; Jones shines as the simultaneous embodiment of Lantac and President Sheldon. The show's finale—a speedy character-changing chase to save the universe—lets off sparks of brilliance.

No director is listed in the program, hardly a surprise considering the manic and rough shape of the evening's proceedings. There are no sets and a half-dozen props. Penelope Lombard begins the night with a bit of science-fiction-related standup. Her best material covers that tried-and-true Martha Stewart terrain. Poor Martha: Even the jokes at her expense—once standup standards—are beginning to sound stale and even a tad pathetic.

"Take Me to Mars," presented by Cold Planet at bang.Improv Studio, 457 N. Fairfax Ave., L.A. Sat. 8 p.m. July 13-Aug. 31. $10. (323) 653-6886.

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