PianoFight: Comedy sketch troupe Mission CTRL threatens to make you laugh till you hurt

(Charles Kruger)

(Rating: 3/5 Stars » Recommended)

This reviewer is a member of the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle (SFBATCC)

Sketch comedy is not quite standup, not quite improvisational and not quite traditional theatre. It’s a goofy hybrid that was born of Vaudeville comedy routines, raised in the variety television series, and attained glorious maturity on The Carol Burnett Show and the early seasons of Saturday Night Live.

Mission CTRL ranks with the best of sketch comedy troupes: think Second City and early SNL. These guys can hold their own as writers and performers. They are sure to be more than a footnote in the comic history of San Francisco—they will be around for a long time. Trust me, you should catch their act now so you can say, “I saw ’em when….”.

Their current performance, Mission Ctrl Goes Public: The $7 Billion IPO, is a set of thematically linked sketches (very loosely linked) that are as carefully constructed as one act plays. Although they never get too serious, they have taken the time to polish these pieces and it shows.

The writing is impressively intelligent, informed by keen social insight, and manages to include a full range of emotional undertones. While we laugh, we are still moved by intimations of loneliness, genuine friendship, social satire and more.

PianoFight's "Triple Threat" includes performances by comedy troupes MISSION CTRL and FOREPLAY as well as an original drama, "Octopus's Garden" by Scott Herman.

High points include the “Beatbox Exorcism” as a young priest tries to save a teenager who has been possessed by “the devil’s beat”. Hilariously referencing the classic movie, the troupe milks the theme for everything its worth.

In “Carl v. The State of Paranoia” the troupe creates a psychedelic trip involving an elf, a minotaur and a courtroom drama that rivals Alice In Wonderland.

The evening is comprised of a total of ten polished sketches, some more successful than others, all of them delivering the funny.

Best of all, the company does not overly rely upon the titillation value of dirty words and smarmy double entendres, which, happily,  doesn’t stop them from getting the most out of a prop dildo and a sequence involving a very elaborate sex machine.

The sketches are intermingled with short films that are as funny as the live performance.

This is a winner all the way down the line. Go. Drink. Laugh. Tell your friends.

Mission CTRL continues as part of PianoFight’s “Triple Threat“, Thursday nights through May 3. For further information, click here.

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