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Comedy of Human Errors

Acme writer-performers shine in sketches that find humor in the situation. Theater Review

October 12, 2000|DON SHIRLEY | TIMES THEATER WRITER

Acme Comedy Theatre's latest collection of sketches, "Acme 'The Body' Ventura,"offers the Saturday night date crowd a bountiful source of good laughs. Produced and directed by Acme Comedy czar M.D. Sweeney, it's one of the best written and most consistently polished Acme shows I've seen.

Although the opening and closing sketches are TV takeoffs, and another sketch is set during an infomercial, the rest of the show is refreshing in its avoidance of media references. The human comedy is the topic at hand. (As usual with Acme and similar groups, the title is meaningless. The show contains no references to Minnesota Gov. Ventura or even to Ventura Boulevard).

Earlene Davis shines in many a role, but especially in two sketches she wrote. In the first, an aging couple ventures on a road trip from their North Valley home in their RV. Davis the performer shows off her chops as she attempts to make a sandwich for her hubby in the back of the moving vehicle.

Later, Davis plays an incompetent waitress in her "Hog Heaven," and her skills as a writer bloom. She turns what might have been a typical restaurant scene into something more complicated, as the focus of the scene shifts surprisingly but effectively among the various characters. Davis' mate in her RV sketch is played by Ashley Clark, who is clearly ready to take over as the latter-day Wally Cox. He has written a wonderfully loopy sketch that opens the second half, in which he plays a children's photographer who is surprised by a somewhat more adult-oriented assignment.

Clark's devilish smile, breaking through his characters' innate meekness in both this sketch and the opening "Dating Game" parody, is irresistible.

Travis Oates also scores as both writer and performer, with the hilarious "All in the Family," in which a small accounting firm takes the notion that it's a "family" too literally, and again in the closing "Reality," in which we are cleverly introduced to yet another new reality-oriented TV series.

Jonna Tameses comes on strong in the first act, as a speaker at a moving company's orientation for new employees and then as a wildly aggressive clerk in a boutique. And that act ends with a musical number by Chip Chinery and Jonathan Green that adroitly juxtaposes the spirit of an effervescent chorus line with a dose of darker sentiment. Keyboardist Green and drummer Christian Malmin keep the blackouts moving right along.

BE THERE

"Acme 'The Body' Ventura," Acme Comedy Theatre, 135 N. La Brea Ave. Saturdays, 8 p.m. Runs indefinitely. $15. (323) 525-0202. Running time: 1 hour, 45 minutes.

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