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CRIT: Theater Review: "Groundlings Hotel and Casino" - Groundlings Theater, Hollywood

By Kevin Salveson

Hit me!

The Groundlings beat the odds again with three face cards and two aces (a full house) in their new Friday-Saturday troupe production of "Groundlings Hotel and Casino" directed by Karen Maruyama.

While a groundling was long ago a person who couldn't afford a seat at the theater, here in LA The Groundlings are a comedy institution which has spawned more success stories than Vegas has glitzy hotels. The material you see onstage today just might wind up on television or in features tomorrow.

One sure "Ace" the troupe has is Mike LoPrete (The Jenny McCarthy Show) who's infectious energy throughout the evening kept everyone betting high at the tables. Another eleven is John Crane and his hyper funk-munchkin character in "Tower Records", who's pelvis is wired to the store's sound system.

The three face cards are all queens: Mary Jo Smith, Donna Gall, and Tina Younger. They played characters who spent time shopping and carping like true pros. There was showgirl titilation in the form of a dressing room scene (Loehmans), and comic relief with a couple of gay whitey scenarios.

And, as always, like a Vegas waitress who serves you drinks, the Groundlings formula gives you a few cocktails of improv just to juice your wallet loose for the sketches. Those, like always, were hit and miss.

But, as in Vegas, there will always be some discards. In this case that would be "Antiques Road Show" which appraises audience-donated objects ($50,000 for a keychain Mr. Potato Head) but which soon offers very little past over-inflected auctioneers voices.

Still, Pit boss Karen Maruyama keeps the dealers rotating at a pace that guarantees the house comes out the winner.

Original Run: 4/20/98

Groundlings Hotel and Casino. Groundlings Theater, 2210 Melrose, Hollywood. Reprint courtesy of Backstage West Dramalogue.

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