BWW Review: GROUNDLINGS TREASURE HUNTERS Strike Comedy Gold!
GROUNDLINGS TREASURE HUNTERS/written by The Groundlings/directed by Ted Michaels/Groundlings Theatre/thru September 14, 2019
The Groundlings' current Friday/Saturday night show GROUNDLINGS TREASURE HUNTERS continues The Groundlings' tradition of making their audiences laugh - and laugh hard! With only four out of the eight originally casted TREASURE HUNTERS performing this last Friday night, the usually equal opportunity spreading of comedic talents seemed to feature the more-than-up-to-it Tony Cavalero. Cavalero, in ten of the seventeen sketches and improvs, maximized his presence on The Groundlings stage with his sharp comedic timing, his quick improvisational wit, his mischievous accents, and his buff athletic dance and fight moves.
Ted Michaels aptly directed his talented ensemble of Cavalero, Lauren Burns, Julian Gant, Laird Macintosh, Emily Pendergast and Jessica Pohly. Each grabbed their individual chances to shine with the various sketches they individually wrote.
Off to a strong start, evening began with Pohly's "Good Friends" about two friends who hadn't seen each other in a decade. Pohly and Cavalero asked each other how they've been, and both initially answered with their brief, polite "I'm fine." When prodded to stop being "so Hollywood," Cavalero smoothly launched into a drawn-out dissertation pity party. Pohly's sorry she asked, but turnaround's fair play. The audience had to decide who's more depressing. Nice!
Burns' "Busted" presented Burns and Cavalero as a couple arguing about their uses of their cell phones. Comparisons of watching porn to emotion lusting got bandied about hysterically.
Burns' "Cookie Dough" gave Burns the chance to exhibit her comic gold stuttering and jumbling up of words into rubber-mouthed jibberish. Think Carol Burnett in her most vulnerable, whacky situations, and you now have Lauren Burns. Simply brilliant!
A true crowd-pleaser of the evening - Pendergast and Cavalero's "Pod People," with the two of them driving down a deserted road listening to a murder mystery podcast with characters sounding more and more similar to themselves. With Pendergast and Cavalero playing this completely straight, this sketch would fit right into a Twilight Zone anthology, except for the fact that their responses to their podcast descriptions elicited a laugh every second.
Pohly and Cavalero's "Tiny Brown Dots" allowed them both, as fashion teacher and icon, to show off their wicked accents from somewhere in Europe. Critiquing a couple of audience members, who were more-than-willing to play along, brought many guffaws.
Gant's "Judge Martin" showcased Gant's lighting-fast, James Brown moves and slick kung fu fight choreography. Gant hung from the metal rafters and executed a clean drop and split on the ground. Wow!
Post-intermission, in Cavalero's "Faith Force," Cavalero comically overcame microphone problems. The amazing Groundlings Band performed the opening verses of Queen's "We Will Rock You," leading to Cavalero's entrance as a tank-topped and leotard-clad, muscle-bound spiritual leader. Cavalero revved up his anxious followers (the audience) interspersing motivational spiel with body-building poses and karate board-splitting tricks. We were believing!
In Cavalero and Burns' "Do Me," both mined much hilarity as a horny aerobics instructor and her hunky lone pupil. In the mix of fantasy slo-mo and reality boundaries, both had their respective seduction moves down!
Macintosh, substituting for Chris Eckert, grabbed his own centerstage in his solo improv of the combined suggestions thrown out from the audience - "Sunset in New Orleans" and "Tennessee Williams." Macintosh shared a very witty improv of golfing in Palm Springs with Pendergast as they worked in random sound effects with their golfing and kissy faces.
In his "Let Loose," Cavalero stole the finale from Macintosh and Pohly as a dancing trucker, à la Footloose.
As always, the consistently smoking Groundlings Band (Greg Kanaga on drums, Larry Treadwell on guitar, and musical director Matthew Loren Cohen on keyboards) rocked with their scene-changing interludes and melodic instrumentals whenever needed.
As hysterically scripted as Groundling shows start out, the genius of The Groundling troupe can unexpectedly take the laughter levels even higher. Join GROUNDLINGS TREASURE HUNTERS in mining comedy gold. You'll be rich with laughter.