You'll Want to Stay on 'Monkey Planet'

The six members of Monkey Planet are smart, funny, versatile performers, and, despite unevenness in the scripting of their third program of sketch comedy, "Escape From the Monkey Planet," watching their characterizations never fails to amuse at West Coast Ensemble.

The evening's running conceit is the Positeens, a group of squeaky-clean high schoolers who seem to have wandered in from a Twilight Zone production of "Godspell."

But the funniest scenes stray far from the premise--a dream visitation by fairies delivered in parodied Shakespearean verse, a kiddie-show creature who's a surly mutation between Barney and Garfield, and a loony Irish clan who recalls in impeccable brogues the days of famine when they survived for a year on a single potato.

Other parts are less successful, primarily because the writing isn't always on par with the acting. Endings are a frequent problem, with scenes simply running out of gas. Too many come across like they could have been written by--well, by monkeys at a typewriter.

* "Escape From the Monkey Planet," West Coast Ensemble, 6240 Hollywood Blvd, Hollywood. Sundays, 8 p.m. Ends March 12. $10. (213) 871-1052. Running time: 1 hour, 35 minutes.

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