Sketches by the Groundlings' "A" cast of master improv artists reliably fall into three categories: "inspired" in which all the right notes of exaggeration, situation and universal recognition ignite an uncontrolled chain reaction of belly laughs; "merely great" in which an incisive caricature carries the potential for critical comedy frisson but melts down before the finish; and "back to the workshop" or not recommended for public viewing at this time. Fortunately, this edition racks up enough of the first and so few of the last that it warrants a medical warning for laugh-induced abdominal cramps. At the top of the heap are the pieces that bear the writing credits of Andrew Friedman, Michael Naughton or Mitch Silpa. In "Honeymoon," Friedman and Silpa's irritating preteen ghost twins, Kevin and Kyle, hilariously connect the horrors of The Shining to the hauntings of Eros-deflating parenting. With "Q&A," Naughton and Friedman expertly excoriate the absurd insipidity of play readings and those who attend them. "The Terrys" features Jillian Bell and Silpa striking satiric pay dirt in the surreal fashion faux pas and entertainment non sequiturs perpetrated by TV comedy variety shows of the early '70s. Charlotte Newhouse, Lisa Schurga, Jill Matson-Sachoff and Edi Patterson all shine in respective leaps into the perverse depths of depraved feminine grotesquerie. And director Mikey Day keeps it all moving at a comedy-conducive clip ... not counting the tediously long scene blackouts, when audiences must bide their time with the tasty licks of musical director Willie Etra and his jam-seasoned band. Groundlings Theater, 7307 Melrose Ave., L.A.; Fri., 8 p.m., Sat., 8 & 10 p.m., thru April 23. (323) 934-9700, groundlings.com.
Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 8 & 10 p.m. Starts: Feb. 11. Continues through April 23, 2011