Director Jim Rash possesses that wonderful Groundlings-bred ability to end all scenes and improvs before they grow tiresome. While this certainly keeps all Groundlings shows short and swiftly paced, it can also prevent characters and scenes from developing beyond a few one-liners. This evening opens with a bang and continues with a good many laughs, yet one can't help but wish Groundlings directors in general might dare to include a few longer scenes rather than relying on their characteristic, failsafe brevity. Such an approach might result in a few loose ends, yet what is improv about if not risk? With an excellent creative cast, the enormous safety net provided here seems slightly unnecessary and occasionally obtrusive.
The evening, on the whole, contains numerous winning scenes, from the brilliant opener--a Blue Angels air show modified to fit inside a school gymnasium, sans planes--to a "First Date" live-action video game in which uncouth players attempt to get past their date's father. The cast is energetic and talented across the board, and it does what it can to establish characters while scenes race towards their abrupt endings.
Standouts include Ben Falcone, who displays a knack for creating and sustaining hilariously offbeat personas, from his geeky moviegoer who turns around every few seconds with a freshly irritating comment, to his suicidal executive dealing with two idiotic men who attempt an ill-planned intervention. Jim Cashman also displays an impressive comedic range, from his uptight executive, who can barely cope with the company's freakish processing department, to his distraught music teacher, faced with demonic young children devoid of talent. Andrea Savage shines in a winning sketch as a woman who auditions for a show by performing her high school role in The Music Man's "Shipoopi"?the catch is that she was a mere chorus member.
Khali MacIntyre and DeMorge Brown are wickedly funny in "Colours," a British game show in which contestants are given a color and must compete to come up with pseudo-poetic imagery to match the color.
Such abundant talent in newer company members promises that the Groundlings will retain its reputation as a fertile training ground for great sketch comedians. Yet one wonders how much stronger these performers might become were they given more room, and risk, onstage.
Hugh M. Davidson