Written and performed by the Acme Players, Acme "The Body" Ventura is flat-out great sketch comedy. Well written and well executed, there is not a weak link in this versatile, nine-person ensemble. These folks know what they're doing. As you might expect, they offer a little bit of everything: a female furniture mover with a baboon heart, a guy with "pudgy sperm," and a contortionist who shoots a ping pong ball out of her nether regions. Trust me, it's all funny.
If I have to choose one sketch that's flawless, it has to be "The RV," in which we're on the road with an older couple. It's written by Earlene Davis and performed brilliantly and lovingly by Davis and Ashley Clark, whose subtle quirks and mannerisms are absolutely hilarious. Davis' character talking to herself and then bouncing around the back of the RV to get a low-fat tuna sandwich for her husband nearly brings the house down. After some unwanted flatulence, husband silences wife's protests with, "It's better to have an empty house than a bad tenant." I didn't want this piece to end, and neither did the audience.
There are three terrific sketches written by Travis Oates: "All in the Family," "The Best Policy," and "Reality." "All in the Family" finds Oates' character, an accountant, coming to work on his first day. His boss (Chip Chinery), who insists on being called "Dad," tells him that his company is like a family and then proceeds to hand out discipline with his belt in the copy room. In "The Best Policy," a fun concept done very well, a man and a woman on a date (Oates and Jonna Tamases) decide to be brutally honest with each other and, eventually, with their waiter (Robert Yasumura). And in the show's closing sketch, "Reality," the entire cast comes out to watch the latest reality show, "Audience." Again, it's a clever idea mined for every laugh by an exceptional cast.
Even the one-joke sketches are kept afloat by inspired character work. In "At the Mall," two women (Davis and Ann Swanson) are overly complimented by an annoyingly perky clothing store clerk (Tamases). It's amazing enough that Tamases can wring laughs out of screaming "Oh my God!" and "Seriously!" a thousand times with a Valley girl accent, but she tops it by threatening to kill one woman if she doesn't purchase her garment and to carry out a "lesbian lick-fest" with the other if she doesn't do the same. In "Everybody Loves Raymond" two cops (Curt Scholler and Oates) place a wire on a very stoned mole (Ed Marques). The scene works because Marques somehow finds a variety of ways to make a classic stoner funny.
Being treated to driving live music by keyboardist Jonathan Green, with the lively Christian Malmin on drums, is an added bonus. Scott Wright's lighting design and Tom Fichter's set work well, and kudos to producer and director M.D. Sweeney for putting together an outstanding production. I can't imagine a better way to spend Rosh Hashanah than in a converted synagogue watching the divine bundle of comedy that is Acme "The Body" Ventura.
"Acme The Body Ventura," presented by and at the Acme Comedy Theatre, 135 N. La Brea Ave., Hollywood. Sat. 8 p.m. Sept. 23-Indefinitely. $15. (323) 525-0202.