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Stage Review : Groundlings' Revue Grins at Local Culture

June 23, 1989|DON SHIRLEY and At 7307 Melrose Ave., Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. Tickets: $12.50-$15; (213) 934-9700. and

In response to the arrival of Second City in the Southland, the Groundlings emphasize local culture in their latest revue, "The Groundlings' Big Spin." They're attempting to claim the nearby turf as their own.

They attack their immediate neighbors, the chic boutiques and cafes along Melrose, harder than any other target. Peter Hastings' "Chair" takes a well-aimed crack at minimalist furniture design, and Melanie Griffin's "The Ladies of Dupar's" is a clever fantasy scene in which a too-hip restaurant is suddenly invaded by a squadron of Dupar's waitresses.

Likewise, Nancy Dye's brief "Interlude" is a brilliantly goofy number in which trendoids strike grim poses while pretending to whistle the prerecorded theme from "The Andy Griffith Show."

The show's freshest take on Los Angeles is "The Road Less Traveled," by Steven Hibbert and Julia Sweeney. A quartet of yuppies exchange secret routes through traffic congestion as if they're endowing each other with the gift of life. But don't laugh too hard; bring a note pad if you want to write down any of the routes.

The show doesn't start as strongly. The first two sketches are lackluster, and Sweeney and Hibbert's "Mea Culpa" is the weakest chapter yet in the adventures of Sweeney's Miss Culpa, who nevertheless remains one of the funniest creations in Groundlings history.

Yet the show as a whole redeems itself, thanks to a strong second half and improvs that were, at least last Friday, sharper than usual.

Gifted George McGrath plays characters who are too similar in the first act, but he concludes the show with a smashing musical improv about the everyday miseries of two audience members, sung in the style of "Les Miserables."

William Schreiner is the new director and Alan Axelrod the savvy music director.

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