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At their picture perfect funniest

The Groundlings' latest improv comedy show, 'Family Portrait,' is outrageously hilarious.

March 12, 2004|David C. Nichols | Special to The Times

The Groundlings outwit the FCC with relish in "A Groundlings Family Portrait." The improv troupe's latest outing is emblematic, showing the institution at its certifiable best.

Giant Sears-style portraiture of Groundlings dressed to resemble "A Mighty Wind's" New Main Street Singers greets the entering crowd. The neutron-powered band (musical director Willie Etra, Greg Kanaga and Larry Treadwell) launches a TV theme prelude. Madness ensues.

"Portrait" features fearless writer-performers (with alternates) and no discernible duds. The reality-programming opener, Jim Cashman and Michael Naughton's "The Final Two," gives "The Bachelorette" a San Francisco City Hall twist. Hugh Davidson's "G-Bay" foists military classification of targeted suspects upon the audience -- literally. In "Show and Tell," Kevin Kirkpatrick's deranged child traverses the venue to share his Barbie accessory. Naughton and Tim Brennen provide two memorable standouts: "Traffic Stop," a Steven Bochco meets Michael Bennett bit; and "Tension," a prurient tale of a masseur's dysfunctional family and denuded client.

Mitch Silpa is convulsive, whether talkative hostage in "Separate Chairs" or Cashman's mirror in "Seeing Double." "The Morning After" finds Nat Faxon and Rachel Duguay approaching Nichols and May. Duguay is unrecognizable as exchange student "Pilar," and she, Faxon and the daft Jill Matson depict "Island Hopping" barflies with jaw-dropping abandon.

The finale, "Diamond's Ring," brings J.R.R. Tolkien to Caesars Palace. Author Christian Duguay makes a fabulous Neil seen through Peter Jackson's viewfinder; the treasurable Jeremy Rowley defies description as Gollum/Smeagol.

Jim Rash's direction is excellent, with spot-on improv segments to ground this sidesplitting group shot. Its outrageous crew merits immediate network contracts and/or clinical observation.

*

'A Groundlings Family Portrait'

Where: Groundling Theater, 7307 Melrose Ave., L.A.

When: Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 8 and 10 p.m.

Price: $20

Contact: (323) 934-4747, Ext. 37

Running time: 1 hour, 35 minutes

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