Groundlings and the Tijuana Brass

Groundlings and the Tijuana Brass (Groundlings Theatre; 99 seats; $ 17.50 top) Groundlings Theatre presents sketches and improv. Directed by Deanna Oliver. Written by Jennifer Coolidge, Steven Cragg, Sean Hogan, David Jahn, Jennifer Joyce, Mike Loprete, Holly Mandel, Mike McDonald, Brian Palermo, Chris Parnell, Chase Winton. Opened May 30, 1997. Reviewed May 31, 1997. Runs through Aug. 23, 1997. Running time: 1 hour, 45 min. Cast: Jennifer Coolidge, Steven Cragg, Sean Hogan, David Jahn, Jennifer Joyce, Mike Loprete, Holly Mandel, Mike McDonald, Brian Palermo, Chris Parnell, Chase Winton. While it lacks some of the heady energy and freshness of the newer comedy ensembles, the venerable Groundlings company still delivers high-level laughter and showcases some of the finer comedy talent around. Their current sketch and improv show is hit and miss , but it features some clever writing and diverse talent. The sketches, for the most part, lack the edge of most contemporary comedy, but make up for their un-hipness with a dedication to smaller, observed truths. There's not much political or topical humor here, with the exception of a delightful Heaven's Gate sketch, nor is there much of the obligatory media satire. Instead, these are personal moments blown up into effective comedy. In "Paul's Crush," for example, the versatile and gifted Mike McDonald confesses his crush on his boss, Jennifer Joyce, in the hushed tones of a therapeutic encounter session. It's twisted love on the eve of the millennium, performed with the understated panache of Nichols and May. "Gang Up," performed by Steven Cragg and Michael Loprete, is a hilarious deconstruction of male macho and homosexual love, played out by a couple of street "toughs." Here and in other sketches, both Cragg and Loprete shine in their characterizations --- Cragg as the outraged everyman with attitude, and Loprete as an outstanding physical comic. Chris Parnell brings an understated, mid-American sensibility to his characters in sketches such as "The Preacher," in which a preacher delivers a sermon about his felonious past, and "Dow," in which Parnell and David Jahn portray singing and dancing recruiters for Dow Chemical. Jennifer Coolidge is the queen of outsized characters in this ensemble, playing a demented, flatulent wedding planner along with Chase Winton in "Wedding Planners" as well as a kind of bizarro Carol Channing in "Camping." Winton also does a lively turn as a newscaster who forgot to put her skirt on in the wake of a 3.2 earthquake. The writing of the sketches is solid and consistent, if not always inspired. McDonald, who is credited along with the other cast members as a writer, creates quirky, delicious characters who drive the action of several sketches: The dork of the study group; the psycho with a crush on his boss; Do, the leader of the Heaven's Gate cult; and the overweight, no-class, health club patron are all memorable McDonald creations. Parnell's preacher, two street toughs created by Cragg and Loprete, and some of Coolidge's dark, colorful women are also characters with depth and dimension. The Groundlings, like others in the comedy ensemble world, are clearly struggling to find an identity, both in their material and performance styles. Rejecting cliched, media-inspired mockings or facile political gags, the company is working in the right territory --- the real, if sometimes outsized, world of human relationships. While their efforts seem somewhat tentative, they are clearly on the right track. AU: Hoyt Hilsman

With:
Jennifer Coolidge, Steven Cragg, Sean Hogan, David Jahn, Jennifer Joyce, Mike Loprete, Holly Mandel, Mike McDonald, Brian Palermo, Chris Parnell, Chase Winton.

Groundlings and the Tijuana Brass (Groundlings Theatre; 99 seats; $ 17.50 top) Groundlings Theatre presents sketches and improv. Directed by Deanna Oliver. Written by Jennifer Coolidge, Steven Cragg, Sean Hogan, David Jahn, Jennifer Joyce, Mike Loprete, Holly Mandel, Mike McDonald, Brian Palermo, Chris Parnell, Chase Winton. Opened May 30, 1997. Reviewed May 31, 1997. Runs through Aug. 23, 1997. Running time: 1 hour, 45 min. Cast: Jennifer Coolidge, Steven Cragg, Sean Hogan, David Jahn, Jennifer Joyce, Mike Loprete, Holly Mandel, Mike McDonald, Brian Palermo, Chris Parnell, Chase Winton. While it lacks some of the heady energy and freshness of the newer comedy ensembles, the venerable Groundlings company still delivers high-level laughter and showcases some of the finer comedy talent around. Their current sketch and improv show is hit and miss , but it features some clever writing and diverse talent. The sketches, for the most part, lack the edge of most contemporary comedy, but make up for their un-hipness with a dedication to smaller, observed truths. There’s not much political or topical humor here, with the exception of a delightful Heaven’s Gate sketch, nor is there much of the obligatory media satire. Instead, these are personal moments blown up into effective comedy. In “Paul’s Crush,” for example, the versatile and gifted Mike McDonald confesses his crush on his boss, Jennifer Joyce, in the hushed tones of a therapeutic encounter session. It’s twisted love on the eve of the millennium, performed with the understated panache of Nichols and May. “Gang Up,” performed by Steven Cragg and Michael Loprete, is a hilarious deconstruction of male macho and homosexual love, played out by a couple of street “toughs.” Here and in other sketches, both Cragg and Loprete shine in their characterizations — Cragg as the outraged everyman with attitude, and Loprete as an outstanding physical comic. Chris Parnell brings an understated, mid-American sensibility to his characters in sketches such as “The Preacher,” in which a preacher delivers a sermon about his felonious past, and “Dow,” in which Parnell and David Jahn portray singing and dancing recruiters for Dow Chemical. Jennifer Coolidge is the queen of outsized characters in this ensemble, playing a demented, flatulent wedding planner along with Chase Winton in “Wedding Planners” as well as a kind of bizarro Carol Channing in “Camping.” Winton also does a lively turn as a newscaster who forgot to put her skirt on in the wake of a 3.2 earthquake. The writing of the sketches is solid and consistent, if not always inspired. McDonald, who is credited along with the other cast members as a writer, creates quirky, delicious characters who drive the action of several sketches: The dork of the study group; the psycho with a crush on his boss; Do, the leader of the Heaven’s Gate cult; and the overweight, no-class, health club patron are all memorable McDonald creations. Parnell’s preacher, two street toughs created by Cragg and Loprete, and some of Coolidge’s dark, colorful women are also characters with depth and dimension. The Groundlings, like others in the comedy ensemble world, are clearly struggling to find an identity, both in their material and performance styles. Rejecting cliched, media-inspired mockings or facile political gags, the company is working in the right territory — the real, if sometimes outsized, world of human relationships. While their efforts seem somewhat tentative, they are clearly on the right track. AU: Hoyt Hilsman

Groundlings and the Tijuana Brass

Groundlings Theatre; 99 seats; $17.50 top; Opened May 30, 1997

Production: Groundlings Theatre presents sketches and improv. Directed by Deanna Oliver. Written by Jennifer Coolidge, Steven Cragg, Sean Hogan, David Jahn, Jennifer Joyce, Mike Loprete, Holly Mandel, Mike McDonald, Brian Palermo, Chris Parnell, Chase Winton. Opened May 30, 1997. Reviewed May 31, 1997. Runs through Aug. 23, 1997. Running time: 1 hour, 45 min.

Cast: Jennifer Coolidge, Steven Cragg, Sean Hogan, David Jahn, Jennifer Joyce, Mike Loprete, Holly Mandel, Mike McDonald, Brian Palermo, Chris Parnell, Chase Winton.

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