Sketchfest Review: The Thrilling Adventure Hour at Marine’s Memorial Theater, 1/22/11

by Marie Carney on January 25, 2011

The Thrilling Adventure Hour is a monthly live performance podcast done at Largo in Los Angeles written by Ben Acker and Ben Blacker.  For SF Sketchfest we were treated to two performances featuring many great actors of varying degrees of famous-ness.  The 10:30 show featuring Neil Patrick Harris sold out, as everything he has done at Sketchfest has, so my ticket was for the early NPH-less show.  But the show didn’t need Neil Patrick Harris to be great.  It was an hour of fun witty writing and excellent acting, so good in fact I came home and subscribed to the podcast.

The show started with music and an introduction to the program by the narrator and assumed sound effects person (if the MacBook in front of him was any indication), Hal Lubin, leading straight into what was to be the first of many fake commercials for either Work Juice (some sort of highly caffeinated coffee) or Patriot Brand Cigarettes (they’re good for your Constitution).  The cast was regular members Craig Cackowski, John DiMaggio, John Ennis, Mark Gagliardi, Marc Evan-Jackson, Samm Levine, Hal Lubin, Annie Savage, Paul F Tompkins, and James Urbaniak.  Announced as guest stars were Busy Philipps, Danny Pudi, Colin Hanks, Alison Brie, Donal Logue and Janet Varney, though from what I can tell most of them have done the show before.

What I was surprised by, and probably shouldn’t have been seeing as it is a radio play, was the amount of music in the performance.  Each commercial had a jingle and each segment had a theme song.  The singing done by the actors was excellent, and the band, who played these songs as well as music during the segments themselves were quite excellent.  The songs were fun and retro sounding with thick harmonies and funny lyrics.

The first segment was a story about Sparks Nevada, Marshall on Mars.  Not usually my favourite genre, but there were fun characters.  A few performers/characters immediately became standouts here.  Donal Logue did an excellent turn as Dan the Highwayman with his sidekick in knife form, Stabby La Roux.  Colin Hanks did an excellent overly excitable little boy, but my favourite performer was Mark Gagliardi.  He played the surly yet charming Martian, Croach the Tracker, who seemed to be in some sort of indentured servitude to Sparks Nevada.  Throughout the performance he was compelling and versatile solidifying his place as my favorite of the evening.

The next bit was Captain Laserbeam which brought out, if the cheering was any indication, the favorite guest star of the evening: Danny Pudi (who you may know as Abed from Community) as the Platonic Ideal.  Another Community star, Alison Brie, made her appearance here as Lady Haiku.  It was at this point that I started to really appreciate the writing, which was one part ironic nod of appreciation and one part inside joke making the whole thing sound like the crazy stuff my friends and I come up with in hyper late night discussions, but with a couple big differences, like polish, professionalism and the ability to actually write it down.  So it was the sexy villainess who spoke only in haiku that made me fall in love with the show.

The last segment was Jefferson Reid, Ace American, a hillarious take on a World War II show.  This was Paul F. Tompkins time to shine, garnering the second largest cheer for a performer.  There was a whole lot of over-zealous patriotism and german slurs (okay, well they really just said ‘kraut’ a lot) which gave it most of the humor.  Samm Levine was also excellent as the sidekick Brownie turned into a mutant mind-controlled monster, making me laugh with just his mad monster grunts and facial expressions.

What was truly amazing is that, through all the humor, it rang true to the old-time radio show theme.  The performance felt real, which was a testament to the writing and the excellent acting.  If only they would have let me stay for the second performance!

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