U.S. Drag

is anything but. Flashpoint Theatre Company's production of this po-mo sitcom skewers twenty-something snarko-neurotics with glee and relish (hold the mustard). Granted, nearly two intermissionless hours is overlong for a sitcom, but it gets better as it goes.

The "sit" is this: Somebody named Ed has been attacking women in Central Park; most of his victims are dead, but the survivors claim they didn't see him, although his m.o. is to ask his victim for help. A group called S.A.F.E. (Stay Away from Ed) forms, based on the motto "A good Samaritan is a dead Samaritan."

Meanwhile, two young women (Katy O'Leary and Kate Bailey) are well-educated, beautiful and broke. They have been camping out in a stockbroker's apartment; Ned (Nathaniel Robertson) is rich, lonely and always enraged. The women are on the prowl for husbands. Or at least men. Or at least unearned money ("It's hard to work for a little when you want a lot"). When one of them says something dumb, the other snarls, "They're gonna yank your summa" - and that should give you the tone of the dialogue.

Enter Christopher (Nick Wilder), a "notable book" author, marketing his neediness and his admittedly faux victimization - what he calls "toxic parenting." They all configure and reconfigure as couples, with James (Andrew Gorell) making up the oh-so-gentle and understanding fourth, Mary (Melissa Connell), one of Ed's victims who discovers that being attacked was the best thing that ever happened to her, a bookstore owner (Jess Conda), and the exceedingly irritating group leader (David Stanger). Romances, like success, and like values, are fleeting.

This script has some ragged edges (characters disappear and plot elements are abandoned) and there is the inevitable problem of characters who are recognizable and/but highly annoying types. Wilder, O'Leary and Bailey turn in subtle and nuanced performances, full of all the little signals of extreme self-absorption and profound superficiality in this Gen-X wasteland: "You want a partner who has no needs." "That would be good."

Director Erin Lucas stages a clever pas de deux of book readings, a duel of spectacularly jargonized whining. The production's low point is the awkwardly danced club scene that conveys its grotesque message long before it's over.

Gina Gionfriddo also wrote After Ashley, seen locally a few seasons ago, another (and better) dark comedy dealing with the media marketing of pain and suffering. She also writes for TV (Law and Order: Criminal Intent and Cold Case) so she really knows the territory.