The Groundlings have never been more witty, satisfying, and consistent than in this newest collection of sketch and improv comedy. The material is crisp and inventive, never relying too much on wacky caricatures, and the improv has never been more spontaneous and quirky. Under Deanna Oliver's adroit direction, each piece fits like a finely cut Armani suit—trim, sophisticated, and smashing.
In "Airport," Jeremy Rowley tackles aviation security measures as a very scary man with empty—but dangerous—pockets. His "Warning Label" wickedly spoofs the risks we take when we medicate ourselves ("stale pubic bouquet," "the loss of the ability to smile," and "fecal slush" curiously find their way into the three-minute voiceover warning label).
Jim Rash's "A Summer on the Porch" offers a face-off between the actor of a one-man show (Rash) and the one and only man in the audience (Mitch Silpa). Rash's "Not Into It" ridicules forced corporate enthusiasm during a recession—complete with dramatic flashbacks and even a musical number. With Christian Duguay, Rash creates the perfect critique of machismo and the ties that bind men together in "Arc of Friendship."
After intermission, the audience is assaulted by Amy Von Freymann's energetic Coco DeLongpre, a makeover artist extraordinaire, in her "Makeover Madness." On the night reviewed, an unsuspecting British housewife from the audience traded in her taupe jumpsuit for a cheetah-skin coat and red hair. The terrific Rachael Harris' "Intervention" inflicts a nutty stock-theatre has-been on a family dealing with alcoholism.
But Rachel Duguay is the comedic gem of the evening, offering up the widest range of characters I've seen one actor tackle in an ensemble comedy show. In "Photo Finish," co-written with Silpa, she plays the overwhelming New York mother in denial to pitch-perfect hilarity. With her slutty teenage stepmom in Von Freymann's "Wilson High," the awkward junior high school swimmer in Von Freymann's "Plunge," and the overcompensating wannabe lesbian in her "Come On Out," Duguay has certainly earned the right to be named this batch's Most Promising Groundling.
"Groundlings Drive-In," presented by and at the Groundling Theatre, 7307 Melrose Ave., Hollywood. Fri. 8 p.m., Sat. 8 & 10 p.m. May 31-Indefinitely. $18.50. (323) 934-9700.