When the Groundlings take the stage for a curtain call at the end of All the Leaves Are Groundlings, you might ask yourself, wait, where are the others? The eight cast members disappear into so many roles, it feels like double that number of actors. The two women, Patty Guggenheim and Lisa Schurga, animate especially diverse characters at a dizzying rate. No one’s afraid to look foolish or ugly or clueless (they also look beautiful and smart, just not as frequently). The cast throws themselves into a myriad of scenarios with passion.
From the opening sketch about nine-year-old boys struggling to finish a solar system science project and a T-shirt giveaway, by director Michael Naughton (“Who’s a Large?”), the show gets the laughs flowing. I laughed so hard, it felt like I was burning calories. Sadly, this turned out not to be the case.
The 15 sketches cover a range of current issues. An annoying office temp/Lyft driver. Men (played by Guggenheim and Schurga in suits and facial hair) lamenting the good ol’ days before #MeToo. An attempted proposal on a failing Disney ride. A home with mold. An ad campaign for men’s underwear that reaches out to all body types (kudos to four fearless men on this one: Ryan Gaul, Eliot Schwartz, Kiel Kennedy and Greg Worswick).
The many ludicrous and cringe-inducing moments are intercut with unexpected warmth that raises the stakes and deepens the laughs. The cast, also including the talented Matt Cook and Josh Duvendeck, never hits a false note.
A three-piece band led by keyboardist Matthew Loren Cohen rocks out before and between the sketches. Since set changes sometimes drag on, the music is welcome. The opening number is, appropriately enough, “California Dreaming,” from which the show’s title is adapted. More than an accent, the carefully selected songs add a touch of whimsy and flaunt the chops of the band, including drummer Greg Kanaga and guitarist Larry Treadwell.
All the Leaves Are Groundlings is performed Fridays at 8:00 pm and Saturdays at 8:00 and 10:00 pm. The show runs through Nov. 23 at the Groundlings Theatre, 7307 Melrose Avenue four blocks west of La Brea. General admission tickets are $25. For more information and tickets, click here or call (323) 934-4747. (Also, the Groundlings is celebrating a big anniversary this year – for more on that, see our supplemental story.)