Curtains: Th [sic] Sense's Best of Our Worst Sketch Comedy at Soul Invictus on Grand
Schwing votes: A majority of the U.S. Supreme Court, who did not actually pose with the litter of sketch performers surrounding them
photo by Franc Gaxiola, imaging by Charles Sohn
UPDATE: Just got a note that tonight -- Friday, February 12 -- tickets are a recession-busting $10, but to get the deal you must call or text 602-214-4344 for more information.
Franc Gaxiola's Th [sic] Sense troupe's sketch comedy seemed like a good fit for this column -- it's written down, rehearsed, and, in the case of the current Best of Our Worst show, features the same content every night. So I'm able to review a known quantity and give you a pretty good idea what you'll be getting yourself into if you go.
Sketch is the only form of the comic arts I've consistently appreciated, other than that rare really good stand-up (who still somehow always makes me laugh more at home on TV that he or she does live). I understand why comedy usually is served with alcohol. (If you aren't funny, there are no other artistic elements or production values to fall back on.)
I've enjoyed watching improv once ever, and I had to go to Scotland and see University of Chicago students to do that. I don't want to watch anyone honing his craft -- I want my entertainment pre-honed, and I don't want to be yelled at for walking out if it sucks. Really, they should pay the audience for a lot of this.
Fortunately, much of Best of Our Worst is funny. Some of it is quite funny. A lot of it is just filthy, which is refreshing. (The show is for people 18 and older only.) A handful of the Oh-my-God-12 performers are kind of brilliant, and you might not get to see this particular group again very soon, because along with Phoenix Rising Artists Collaborative, Arizona Curriculum Theater, and the art gallery part of Soul Invictus, they're moving out of the building this summer.
I expected a group that's been together two years and, yes, rehearsed, to be better actors in general and pull me more fully into the tiny world of each of the Oh-my-God-32 sketches. (Only eight or nine of the pieces were actually "meh," which is not a bad average.) But scene changes were speedy, with diverting music bumps, and a few of the performers have so much juicy, charismatic appeal that it often doesn't matter much that their scene partners can't quite catch up.
Nudity is warned about in advance and is subtly sprinkled throughout the performance. It all happens to be male -- the ladies keep their clothes on. Whether that's an unspoken blow for feminism or just a side effect of all teh ghey in the room, I would have felt respected by this, had every other sketch not been about my putrid, foul-smelling minge. (The show's supposed to be offensive -- which is also made very clear before it begins -- and hey, good job with that, everybody!) The nude fellas happened to be among the better actors to begin with, so they didn't need to be pantsless to work it. Though when they were, they Oh-my-God did.
Here are a few of my favorite things:
1. Jo Anna Larson and Kristie Cowles, every minute. They couldn't be more different from each other, but each one owns the stage and our hearts, and you'd better come in with an empty bladder or they'll own your undies, too.
2. "Road Scholar," in which a big-rig driver (Robert Topping, I think) picks up a good-ol'-gal hitchhiker (Bronwyn Schile, I think) and they commence a heated lit-crit debate in their twangy accents.
3. "Master Chef," a restaurant scene that takes the ego-driven chef stereotype to a logical extreme.
4. "Set That Down," a Pythonesque absurdity that goes nowhere in an oddly compelling way.
5. Something called "Bukkake Ad" that should probably remain a surprise.
6. "Lesbian Speed Dating." Profoundly, unfairly stereotypical; heart-rendingly funny.
7. "Chastity Rap," in which a bunch of perky, celibate teenagers list everything they aren't doing.
8. Klae Klevenger, Dion Foreman, Jeni Dale, and Sandy Leon, who constitute a strong core among the players, working hard and well in all their appearances.
A nod to the writing stable, too. The program doesn't say who wrote what, but, as I mentioned, most of the stuff is pretty strong.
Best of Our Worst continues through Saturday, February 20, at Soul Invictus, 1022 Grand Avenue. Tickets are $15; order here or take your chances at the door (cash only). For more information, call 602-214-4344.
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