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CARY AND GALLO: WHAT IF WE DID THIS?

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This clever blend of bizarre comedy sketches and original short films had an audience in stitches on the night reviewed. Comedy duo Josh Cary and Patrick Gallo—two friends who developed their absurdist shtick while sharing a tiny New York apartment—co-write with Ted Sullivan (who directs), Paul Sullivan (director of the shorts, and producer for The Daily Show With Jon Stewart), and Chris De Luca (contributing writer to Saturday Night Live and The Late Late Show with Craig Kilborn). Fast paced and tightly scripted, the show's best material gets at the weirdness of our everyday interactions, going a step outside the Seinfeldian—what's the deal with leather jackets?—model by way of wordplay, surreal situations, and the occasional song. But whether belting out a perfect harmony or debating the fine points of style, this pair thrives on penetrating wit and an intimately shared view of life.

In one of the funniest sketches of the evening, a leather-jacketed Cary and Gallo take on some beguiling characters by way of the requisite East/West Coast prop, pondering "that guy" who ties the jacket around his waist, and "that other guy" who bunches up the sleeves when he's hot. Another inventive sketch has the two meeting on the street for some high-impact small talk, noses pressed tip-to-tip. And in a hilarious send-up of male bonding, the guys punctuate a typical chat with a series of increasingly elaborate secret handshakes, the last ones verging on acrobatic.

Mixed in with the sketches and of similar sensibility, five shorts directed by Paul Sullivan also star Cary and Gallo. Most of the shorts focus on phone conversations between the pair, Cary playing the high-strung, unwilling partner to Gallo's tangent-prone phone habits. With a keen eye, Sullivan illustrates the dialogue with selections of stills that pinpoint the humor in each exchange; one sequence alternates images of an exasperated Cary with a single shot of Gallo drinking milk out of the carton. In a memorable film "of another era," they play silent film actors who discover a scary world of sound behind the fourth wall. And in the closing short, we get a glimpse at the duo's bathroom mirror monologues, which are anything but ordinary.

With impressive writing and vaudevillian versatility at their disposal, it's no surprise Cary and Gallo were a hit Off-Broadway earlier this year. No tired punch lines here, just the strange and true.

"Cary and Gallo: What If We Did This?," presented by Boy in the Drain and Arlincary Productions at the Coast Playhouse, 8325 Santa Monica Blvd., W. Hollywood. Thurs.-Sun. 8 p.m. May 6-13. $10. (323) 655-8587.

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