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'Drive-In' Treads Uneven Ground


A visit to a Groundlings sketch comedy show is one of L.A.'s great all-purpose activities. On a date? With friends? Family visiting from out of town? Go to the Groundlings; they can tickle laughter out of most everyone.

Some nights are better than others, of course. It all depends on who's in the talent pipeline (the next Will Ferrell or Cheri Oteri?) and what they've concocted.

Friday's performance of "Groundlings Drive-In," the current showcase for the company's most promising members, managed to put the crowd in a giggly mood, mostly because performers Christian Duguay, Rachel Duguay, Rachael Harris, Steven Pierce, Jim Rash, Jeremy Rowley, Mitch Silpa and Amy Von Freymann pushed their characterizations to outrageous extremes. But their sketch ideas left something to be desired.

The best of these 16 sketches--under Deanna Oliver's direction--dealt with airport security, a brave choice for a performance less than 36 hours after the July 4 killings at LAX. Looking goofy in a wardrobe several decades out of date, Rowley became a whiny passenger bogging down a checkpoint, protesting, "I don't haaave anythiiing"--in a voice pitched so high it could have shattered glass--and fearfully whimpering "ow-ow-ow" as a security wand passed over him.

Von Freymann also scored laughs as a make-over queen out to put "the 'you' in unique" while herself looking rather too unique. (Think a red-haired Elvira in a long, leopard-print coat.)

Too many ideas were shopworn, though: the Andy Kaufman-type foreigner who mangles English; the male friendship that mirrors a dating cycle; the woman going through a bad breakup who makes a change by trying to hook up with a lesbian. In five improv segments, the comedians also stuck to well-traveled territory.

As is often the case with sketch comedy, the funniest part of the show was how ill-matched the title was to the material. "Drive-In"? Don't even try to figure it out.


"Groundlings Drive-In," the Groundling Theatre, 7307 Melrose Ave., L.A. Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 8 and 10 p.m. Indefinitely. $18.50. (323) 934-9700. Running time: 1 hour, 55 minutes.

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