Here's a delightful find, a collection of funny writer-performers who know when to put down their pens. This personable quartet of Dane Biren, Matt DeNoto, Dana DeRuyck, and Greg Kaczynski, operating under the moniker Dynamite Kablammo, skillfully packs just under an hour with almost 20 sketches and never once hits a note that's false or strained. Most important, the audience never finds itself trapped with a sketch that drags on long past its welcome. If, perhaps, the payoff of a piece is an embarrassingly bad pun, it's not a problem, and you've only invested about 12 seconds anyway. Kaczynski is to be commended for the crisp direction.
DeRuyck nicely holds her own against the three guys, essaying roles as diverse as a laundry room she-minx with a volatile temper in addition to a braces-wearing, laterally lisping scion of a retiring pirate, a child whose greatest wish is to be known on the Spanish Main as Captain Spazzbeard. Biren is a compact cutie whose characterization of God as a resort wastrel makes a marvelous callback joke. There is chemistry to spare among this group, and it's appealingly displayed during a sketch in which DeNoto and Kaczynski portray perhaps the stupidest kidnappers currently on a local stage, whose willingness to play Truth or Dare with their captive (they lose) is rather appealing in its utter guilelessness. The writing is tight and bright, and even the long-form pieces, such as the one in which the hornbook rule "You lick it, you own it" expands from property to people to real estate, keep building to a satisfying finish and then, blessedly, finish. It would be easy for this clever troupe's members to preen and flourish, but it's a temptation they resist. Even the rather well-trod territory of God expanding the original Ten Commandments is treated in a manner both whimsical (a commandment about birthday candle-extinguishing and wishes) and observational (just to mess with them, let's have men uncover their heads, and women cover theirs, in church!).
If bad experiences with sketch comedy have put you off the form, this is your opportunity to reconsider. You might find it delicious.
Presented by and at ZJU Theatre Group,
4850 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood.
Tue. 8:30 p.m. Jan. 15-Feb. 19.
(818) 202-4120. www.zombiejoes.com.