Looniness, Topicality Missing in 'Garuda'

The creators of "Garuda," now at Actors' Gang Theatre, say the title refers to a (presumably mythical) winged creature that eats elephants.

Maybe this middling improvisation effort needs more bits about garudas. Though obviously talented, the six-member troupe Wild Orphans never gets as wild or as funny as one might hope.

Working sans audience input, the performers on review night improvised moderately amusing riffs on pregnancy, lawyers, pawnbrokers and airport security. One choice bit had a customs official sternly informing a traveler that his 9mm handgun passed inspection but his collection of Harold Ramis videos would have to be confiscated.

But missing was the looniness and topicality that spice the best improvisation. Current events--usually a welcome improv staple--were rarely mentioned. Too often it was plain the performers were racking their brains to think of something funny to say or do.

The appealing cast members--Jill Cargerman, Jason Kassin, Peter Murrieta, Adele Robbins, Sasha Ruocco and Adam Tomei--worked under the direction of Thom Vernon.

* "Garuda," Actors' Gang Theatre, Studio Space, 6209 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood. Today and Saturday, 8 p.m. Regular schedule resumes Dec. 29: Fridays-Sundays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 10:30 p.m. Ends Jan. 7. $8. (213) 969-4075. Running time: 1 hour, 10 minutes.

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