Acme Comedy Theatre’s latest collection of sketches from its principal company displays inventiveness, imaginative writing and fine acting. Unlike some other sketch-comedy companies in town, it has cut loose from TV-oriented material and finds its inspiration in the great, big, crazy real world.
The rocky relations between the sexes loom large as a theme of the evening, beginning with the delightful “She Said Yes,” in which a love-struck office worker, played by Michael Naughton, pursues co-worker Antoinette Spolar up to and beyond the brink of sexual harassment. In “I Don’t,” Todd Rohrbacher is the deflated suitor who proposes marriage to indifferent Spolar over dinner at Hamburger Hamlet.
In the often brilliant “Just Say No,” set in (of all places) a Scottish bakery, Erin Ehrlich, Audrey Rapoport and Susie Geiser go to absurdly hilarious lengths to describe their absolute rejection of their lovers. In “I’ll Call You,” Ehrlich takes her own peculiar form of revenge on her ex-boyfriends who have lied, cheated and ignored her. And in “Eggs in a Basket,” Alex Alexander and Rohrbacher unveil the pleasures and perils of in-home in vitro fertilization.
The Acme Players are able to go the extra mile in creating characters of depth and dimension. In “Facts of Life,” Ehrlich and Doug Jackson portray with poignancy and humor a very special grandfather and his granddaughter, while in “Miss Howard,” Rapoport does a wonderful turn as a faded Hollywood diva making an appearance at Musso and Frank’s.
Although the troupe doesn’t tackle the big social and political issues of our time, it skillfully carves out the smaller moments in life for its humorous barbs. In “All You Can Puke,” Jackson, Jeff Lewis and Jamie Kaler crawl helplessly along the floor after pig-outs at Red Lobster and Sizzler. “Old Flames” outrageously describes the horror of unexpectedly running into ex-lovers. And “Your Beautiful Fiancee” tests the boundaries of male friendship, as Lewis describes an erotic dream he had about Rohrbacher’s fiancee.
The players thankfully ignore much of the overly trodden, politically correct, pop culture-inspired humor, with very few references to celebrities or over-hyped issues. In fact, Alanis Morissette and Baby Jessica McClure are the only notables to make appearances.
Both performances and writing are uniformly strong, with excellent work by Spolar, Rapoport, Ehrlich, Rohrbacher and Naughton. Rapoport delivers a particularly edgy performance as a refugee from a Sunoco gas station in “Backstage Pass” and Kaler gives the evening’s standout performance in a masterful, wordless “Driving the Point Home.”
Director M.D. Sweeney deserves credit for keeping the production simple and fast-paced. Musical accompaniment by Jonathan Green and Christian Malmin is an upbeat addition to the evening.