Th [sic] Sense's 3 Ways from Sunday Is the Fancy Snacks of Sketch Comedy

Do sketch comedy long enough, and you'll even be able to compile The Best of Tim Meadows . It's taken Valley troupe Th [sic] Sense far less than 25 years, though, to whomp up a Best Of show that, while lengthy, includes almost nothing you wouldn't want to see again (and plenty of sharp stuff you haven't seen before, even if you did catch a couple of this season's previous shows).

As most bouquets have some filler, as most free hors d'ouevres spreads have their crudites and dip, most compilations of the creative arts have their bland, WTF? moments. The cool thing about the Sickies (as they call themselves) is that while the setup and/or closing of a few sketches may be awkward and unfunny, the comic premises are often golden, and nothing goes on so long that you lose the will to live.

An evening with Th [sic] Sense can be sort of like a nostalgic evening with the crazy, drunk friends you maybe don't see as much as you used to because you can't keep up with them anymore. You wind up having fun from the mood they get you in as much as from what they're doing.

Sometimes there doesn't even have to be a joke, per se; it's honestly more than enough to see Bronwyn Schile putting her red fishnets from Head: The Musical (which, hey, by the way, is playing one more weekend in Tucson -- road trip!) to good use as a voluptuous, quasi-rapping Mrs. Santa, while Kristie Cowles backs her up with her usual loose-limbed, metaphorical balls-to-the-wall full investment. 

Obviously, of course, the troupe's literal lack of rhythm in its handful of otherwise humorous and worthwhile rap numbers has absolutely nothing to do with its current lack of black performers -- a situation that's wryly referred to in (judiciously) a couple of the non-rapping sketches. Still, given the prevailing atmosphere of equal-opportunity offense, it's somewhat tempting to make the connection.

Because, despite no feminine odor sketches having made the cut this time around, there's plenty to offend -- and a brief return of male full-frontalness, but not so much that escorted minors can't attend this particular show. If a particular one of the 30 sketches goes too far for you, you can be sure another one will go too far for the person sitting across from you; you're not alone. 

Meanwhile, we reap the benefits of the ever-increasing physical comedy chops of the core Sickies, along with the fresh talents of Justin Dew and Madeleine Miller, two new members selected through a grueling audition process. And the attention to detail, in those occasional situations when a costume or prop will make something even funnier, is simply stunning. Whether a performer has to be a cell phone, an alcoholic beverage promotional maiden, or a penis (see above), the necessaries are lovingly crafted and skillfully employed.

Savvy directors, including those at Southwest Shakespeare Company, have started casting some of the Valley's sketch and improv veterans in plays and musicals, and we're all benefiting from these actors' battlefield-honed talents -- including, as beautifully demonstrated in 3 Ways from Sunday, exponentially richer, more distinct singing voices. I used to simply endure the bulk of song parodies such as "Damage to Do" and "We Are BP," but now they're among the strongest segments of the show.

Schile and castmate Bill Dyer are a couple of the finest vocalists, and "Defying Reality," their simultaneously hypocritically clueless and letter-perfect, affectionate trashing of Glee, is a high point. A couple of my other faves are "Human Pet," one of those rare sketches that just gets funnier the more they throw at it (and the sight of Klae Klevenger with floppy ears and a dog collar is, again all by itself, enough to both amuse and arouse me for a week or more), "St. John's Chastity Christmas Rap" (a charming list of what you can "get" for Christmas if you don't practice abstinence), "Tickle Me Emo," and "Dixon Cider" (because, I have to admit, it took me by surprise, no double entendre intended),

3 Ways from Sunday continues through Saturday, May 28, at Soul Invictus, 1022 Grand Avenue. To inquire about booking tix, $20, in advance, call 602-214-4344, e-mail boxoffice@soulinvictus.com, or check here to see whether discounts are available. Dress lightly, hydrate, and enjoy!

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