In the high courts of comedy, the verdict for Acme's new show is unanimous: guilty for the possession of several mood-altering and enhancing pieces of fine sketch entertainment. These are some of the most clever bits churned out by the company in a long time, if not the best ever. There's not a weak link in the nine-member ensemble. The laughs are quick and witty; the clunkers are few and far between.
Billy Wright really gets the show going halfway through the first act with "The Doll," in which he plays an evangelical Christian missionary woman spreading the love of God to countries she's never heard of. Later, Wright takes on an adult-film star being interviewed by James Lipton (played with deadpan hilarity by Paul Jackson) in the Acme version of "The Actors Studio." Jackson also delivers smart, biting satire in "Ice Square," in which a rapper with a monkey sidekick (Robert Yasumura, almost as convincing as Chris Kattan) at a high school function has been asked to clean up his routine. None of the sketches overstays its welcome, and perhaps the reason for this particular show's success is a lack of reliance on ridiculously zany caricatures. Ed Marques has the only really over-the-top portrait of the bunch, and he is quite funny as a Filipino typing instructor in his unrestrained but irresistible "Just One Stick." The rest of the lot focuses primarily on real-life situations.
In Josh Gilbert's "Night," Danielle Hoover hopelessly tries to convince her husband that they are being burglarized. "Little Darling" gives Gilbert the chance to play around with the concept of a newborn baby's malleable skull, with uproarious results. Travis Oates' "Promise Keeper" confronts a soldier in wartime with a buddy's unimaginably detailed list of last requests should he get shot. And Jeff Lewis and Jonna Tamases create the ultimate white trash romantic bar rendezvous. His pickup line? "Listen, I've banged a lot of broads in my day. But not you."
Producer and director M.D. Sweeney seems to be on a winning streak here with impeccable comic timing. Whatever he's done to whip the group into shape has paid off with a sober and fun Downey Jr.
"Acme Downey Jr.," presented by the Acme Players at the Acme Comedy Theatre, 135 N. La Brea Ave., Hollywood. Sat. 8 p.m. Mar. 17-Indefinitely. $15. (323) 525-0202.