BWW Review: GROUNDLINGS MIX TAPE Filled With Tracks & Tracks of Tears of Laughter
GROUNDLINGS MIX TAPE/written by The Groundlings/directed by Michael Churven/Groundlings Theatre/thru February 1, 2020
A frequently consistent scene-stealer on The Groundlings stage, Michael Churven takes the directorial reins offstage to deftly guide his amazingly funny cast of six (Samantha DeSurra, Chris Guerra, Ariane Price, Mary Scheer, Annie Sertich and Alex Staggs) to an evening of hilarity in GROUNDLINGS MIX TAPE. In a limited four-week run of Fridays and Saturday nights, GROUNDLINGS MIX TAPE features a Best of Sketch selection from past shows with a rotating cast. As in The Groundlings tradition, the writer of a particular sketch usually takes the lead, while the others give their all in support, in true ensemble form.
Opening night opened with Sertich's "Sleepover." Sertich played the 'uncool' mom hosting a sleepover of three teens (essayed by Staggs, Guerra and DeSurra). Banned from using any electronic devices, Sertich tried to devise ways the three teens could entertain themselves. Sertich demonstrated karaoking to her favorite songs utilizing sign language. Still disinterested, the kids challenged her to karaoke to one of their songs. Thinking "Bang, Bang" would gross Mom out, Sertich turned the tables on them with a master hiphop, nasty, high-speed signing, with all the obscene gestures thrown back at the kids. Brava, Sertich!!! Sertich also exhibited her comedy chops as a far-from-retiring Granny in her "With Peaches," and as a fed-up high school teacher in her "Add It Up"
Price commanded the audience as the successful, heavily-accented beauty supplies saleswoman in her "Psychic." Although Price wrote "Poetry Class" and took center stage as the socially-awkward unromantic poet, she generously allowed Staggs to steal the sketch right from under her as he quietly stared at her enhanced camel toe. Great underplaying from Staggs.
Staggs also displayed his sharp comic timing as an emcee performing the finale of his choreographed Little Miss pageant in his "Little Miss Lady." He sang all the 'descriptive, more-for-adults' stage directions along with the lyrics. Too, too funny! Staggs teamed up with Guerra for his "Area," in which Staggs as the arriving conventioneer to Boise, Idaho asks Guerra the hotel clerk for a fun spot in town for himself to hang out. Who knew there were sooooo many ways to describe a gay area without saying gay! And good for Guerra for keeping a straight face and demeanor throughout.
Guerra showed off his physical comedy skills as a reformed sugar eater in his "Pie Day" and as a horny husband with very flexible stomach muscles in his and DeSurra's "Turn Me On." Both Guerra and DeSurra's strong vocals dominated DeSurra's "Sing For Mama."
Scheer revealed her mastery of voice control as an hysterical witness in her "Witness." Scheer ever so smoothly modulated statements from decipherable descriptions to indecipherable pitches of high tone screams, and back - just like you were turning a volume knob. Wow!
A welcomed constant at every Friday/Saturday Groundlings show, The Groundlings Band (Greg Kanaga on drums, Larry Treadwell on guitar, and musical director Matthew Loren Cohen on keyboards) provide, as ALWAYS, heart-stopping musical interludes during the scene-changes. Songs from this very, VERY talented trio included: "California Dreaming," ABBA's "Gimme, Gimme, Gimme!" and "Vogue" amongst others.
Cast members and skits may differ from show-to-show, but well-earned laughs and unexpected WTFs can always be counted on at The Groundlings.