Need a good laugh? You could take your chances with the latest movie comedy, which might offer a few chuckles. But for true LOLing, you can’t do better than the one-of-a-kind Groundlings Theatre.
In both entertainment quality and bang for the buck, the Groundlings excel. For about the same price as a movie, a troupe of exuberant comedians offers a fast, furious and, most importantly, live comedy show. It’s close to home, it’s an institution and it’s funny as hell.
The current, limited-run show is Groundlings Lights Up, although as with most Groundlings shows the title doesn’t matter much. The sense of immediacy that comes from improv is what makes every Groundlings show special and unique.
Lights Up uses classic sketch topics like marriage counseling, a corporate retreat, and a radio call-in show as jumping off points for audience prompts that add a sense of lunacy. Picture a Shakespearean sonnet (Groundlings topic) about…prune juice (audience suggestion).
Up first was that January classic, a New Year’s resolution. The audience prompt added “Don’t step in mud.” And the cast, led by TV veteran Mindy Sterling, then sang and acted out a hilarious song that covered both of those requirements.
Over the course of the show’s first hour, almost a dozen topics get skewered. Some audience prompts work better than others, but nothing fazes the Groundlings, true comedy professionals, or their director, Chris Eckert. The cast is completely in synch, whether riffing on current news topics like Southwest flight cancellations or making a left-field audience suggestion like “too many guinea pigs” fit a topic. They’re fearless, taking off a shirt (Michael Hitchcock, playing a bear in a gay disco) or writhing on the floor to up the laugh level.
After an intermission, there’s a longer piece on the theme of redemption. Based on the audience-suggested airport setting, cast members set up furniture and jumped right in.
All cast members play roles spanning a range of types. Standouts across multiple sketches were Sterling, along with Jay Renshaw, Sam DeSurra, Kiel Kennedy, Ashley Padilla, Matt Cook and Ariane Price.
Lights Up isn’t the only Groundlings show currently running. There are multiple options from Wednesday through Sunday, including:
- The Crazy Uncle Joe Show, Wednesdays at 8:00pm ($18)
- Cookin’ With Gas, Thursdays at 8:00pm ($22)
- The Completely Different Late Show, Fridays at 9:30pm ($20)
- The Sunday Company Show (Groundlings alumni) Sundays at 7:30 ($19)
Lights Up runs through the month of January. It’s performed Friday and Saturday nights at 7:30 at the Groundlings Theatre, 7307 Melrose Avenue in West Hollywood. Tickets are $25. Masks must be worn inside the theater. Street parking may require a walk of a block or two. Tickets to Lights Up and other shows can be purchased here.
About Laura Foti Cohen
Laura Foti Cohen has lived in the Brookside neighborhood since 1993. She works as a freelance writer, editor and consultant. She's also a playwright affiliated with Neo Ensemble Theatre in Hollywood.
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