When watching sketch comedy, most of us inevitably finds ourselves hoping the percentages work in our favor. In other words, there's probably bound to be a few groaners, but we hope there will be more good than bad. In the Acme Comedy Theatre's latest offering, it's a pleasant surprise to say the good far outweighs the bad. There's a tendency for a few strong segments to run a little too long, and we can count on standard sketch fallbacks—funny voices, some easy bathroom humor—but overall this production packs triple the laughs of a typical episode of Saturday Night Live in roughly the same amount of time.
Director Travis Oates confidently helms a flawless ensemble of eight talented and distinctive actors in sketches that run the gamut of humor both high- and low-brow. It's hard to miss with a great physical bit about three football fans (Kevin Small, Chris MacKenzie, and Greg Benson) shaking their groove with goofy choreography to hit songs, or the sight of a underwear inspector (MacKenzie) personally testing his product, but these bits are balanced with several moments of clever wordplay. In "Your Witness," an undeservedly confident attorney (Matt Knudsen) is prone to spewing hilarious misinformation. And in the witty "Word Up," the stellar Wil Wheaton plays a slow-witted suitor who manages to seduce a crisp and efficient accountant (Kimberly Lewis) with sweet talk provided by a thesaurus. Still, it's the nonverbal "Untitled Office Sketch #9"—in which the most mundane activities turn into a beautifully staged musical number—that achieves a sublime absurdity.
It's also worth mentioning the trio of female actors (Lewis, Kim Evey, and Jodi Miller) who prove that women don't have to be relegated to the background in comedy. Although the cast is uniformly excellent, standouts include MacKenzie and Small, who can garner huge laughs with the simplest delivery or expression. Lighting and sound by Mike Cernicky are outstanding, with a production value far higher than any sketch show I've seen. And musical director Jonathan Green and drummer Christian Malmin keep the energy high with live musical accompaniment.
"Acme Love Machine," presented by and at the Acme Comedy Theatre, 135 N. La Brea Ave., L.A. Fri. 8 pm through Jan. 28, Sat. 8 pm through Feb. 26. $15. (323) 525-0202.