In this sprightly, very funny revue, The Groundlings again show why they are L.A.s go-to company for sketch comedy. Of course, the sketches, in director Mikey Days crisply paced, surgically focused production, hew to a number of rules that are familiar by now to Groundlings fans. One rule: First dates will never turn out well such as the one in which a woman (Lisa Schurga) self-sabotages a promising romance by making a series of appallingly unsuitable, compulsive personal revelations, or the one in which a hilariously dorky pair of teens on prom night (Jim Rash and Annie Sertich) paw and stumble their way through their loss of virginity. Another rule: Folks who have facial hair are invariably ripe for ridicule, be it the creepy, whiskery pair of recovered addicts (Nat Faxon and David Hoffman) delivering a not entirely convincing testimonial at a rehab clinic, or the woefully white bread, mustachioed aspiring dancers auditioning ineptly for a spot on an MTV show. Judging from this outing, the companys sensibility seems to be evolving into slightly edgier terrain, with characters who sometimes appear darker and more nuanced than weve seen before. The ensemble work is tight and often brutally funny but particular standouts include some brilliantly versatile turns from Steve Little, as a monstrous office worker with a gluttonous appetite for break-room animal crackers, from Annie Sertich, as the worlds least-coherent restaurant waitress, and from the ever-astonishing Jim Cashman, assaying a variety of roles, including half of a screechingly dysfunctional gay couple, to a dippy dude trying to create a flash mob video of one. Director Day commendably cuts the generally uneven audience participation sketches that are frequently a Groundlings show downfall. Groundling Theater, 7307 Melrose Ave., L.A.; Fri., 8 p.m.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sat., 10 p.m.; through April 24. (323) 934-4747.
Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 8 & 10 p.m. Starts: Feb. 12. Continues through April 24, 2010