The setup: After five years on Grand Avenue, utterly disgusting sketch comedy troupe Th [sic] Sense starts its 2013-14 season in the recently fitted Basement Theatre at Phoenix Center for the Arts with a new one-act hellride, Revenge of the Sic.
The execution: The 70-seat venue is super-accessible, adequately air-conditioned, and sells beer, wine, non-alcoholic beverages (meh), cookies, and chips. Scott Gesser is back, singing funny and offensive original songs for 20 or 30 minutes before showtime. (You should arrive early enough for this -- it's at least as good as the comedy.)
TSS has auditioned and is breaking in new performers, as any troupe must routinely do, and the three who debut in this show are strong and sassy. (If I seem to mention sassiness a lot, it's because Phoenix always needs more of it.)
My favorite newbie so far is probably the fearless Michelle Nakamoto, but Darius Rivera and Tom Johnson are also terrific and funny, especially when the latter busts out a spot-on Paul Lynde impression in order to "voice" an animated rat buddy for Anne Frank in a Disney cartoon. Sadly, that delightful homage, which comes just before the show's end, is also its best moment bar none. This edition of Th [sic] Sense is weak. Bad. Disappointing. But certainly not the worst thing you could choose to go see on Friday or Saturday night.
A couple of the sketches are funny. The opener, about a dinner party, is a tightly performed hoot but brings in a Hitler reference for no discernible reason. Hitler references need to, you'll excuse the figure of speech, kill. I don't want to spoil the meager elements of surprise by going into detail about what's wrong with many of the other sketches. You'll be able to tell.
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The verdict: Despite being well-cast, well-rehearsed, and well-directed, Revenge of the Sic never quite takes off. If you're a fan of the Siccies, you'll probably have a nice time. If you're new to the company's audience, especially if you have high standards for sketch comedy, you might want to wait for the holiday show. Unless you simply need more outrageous grossness in your life. Then you're golden.
Revenge of the Sic continues through Saturday, September 28, at 1202 North Third Street. Get advance tix for $15 here (and you really should, because the show is selling well), purchase them at the door for $20, or take advantage of sweet, sweet student night this Friday the 27th for $5 at the door with ID. (ASU Downtowners, take note -- someone has your back!) Pointless phone calls may be placed to 602-214-4344 (not that no one will talk to you, just that there's very little else you might benefit from knowing).