The sci-fi musical comedy The Incredible Comeback of Frankie Pera runs Friday nights through November at the Mercury Cafe. It's Reno by way of Roswell when the charismatic Pera, played by dramatist Mike Chappelle, takes the stage. For the next two hours, Pera's job is to prep the audience for the new world order, which is approaching at the speed of the mothership. When the lounge lizard ducks out to grab a highball, the stuttering, nerve-wracked pianist, played by playwright Gregg Painter, voices his doubts regarding Pera's identity and sanity. His concerns seem well-founded at first, as the singer, sporting a hairpiece of unsettling density, sketches a cosmology of teeming alien activity. Worth the price of admission alone is the steady stream of rat-pack slanguage fused to new-age gobbledygook that Pera spews between well-beaten jazz standards. (Who knew "Blue Moon" was really a description of an alien abduction?) Ten years ago, Chappelle's one-man vehicle, Doctor Antonioni's Imaginary Disease (which also contained more than a passing whiff of conspiracy theory), won the Critic's Circle Award for Best New Play and was featured on National Public Radio's Morning Edition. While Doctor riffed on the burgeoning AIDS scourge, The Incredible Comeback of Frankie Pera is a well-timed tweak at millennial superstition. Beam me up, baby! -- Amy Kiser
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