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The Thrilling Adventure Hour Review

tah f73When you pass by Largo on La Cienega just south of Melrose, it doesn’t look like much.  A small, nondescript building on the corner of Oakwood, it definitely draws your attention less so than Trashy Lingerie, which is right across the street with all its lace and feathers, masks and garters, leather whips and long black boots, quietly defying you on the other side of those big glass windows [editor’s note: um . . . creepy].  But, right across the street without a hint of fetishistic appeal is an unassuming brick building that contains the Coronet Theatre and several other rooms that make up Largo.  The entrance is a big iron gate under a brick archway and, once inside, you find yourself in a small, open-air, brick-paved courtyard with a few tables and chairs at the periphery.  Off this courtyard there are at least two different bars and a large 750-seat theatre.  I spent the hour before the show having a couple pints of Guinness in The Little Room Bar, which was set up like a small cabaret.  The seats and tables were tightly packed and faced a tiny stage in the corner with a standing mic.  The lights were dim and, though there wasn’t actually a sultry, velvet-clad songstress wearing pearls accompanied by an upright bassist in sunglasses and suit, the space simply begged for it.  At fifteen minutes to show time, I finished my beer and set out across the courtyard to the theatre.  On the way there, I encountered Ben Acker, a writer and half of the duo responsible for The Thrilling Adventure Hour.  Upon telling him how much I was looking forward to the show, his response was promptly, “Well, let me build it for you even more then.  Take however-good-you-think-it’s-going-to-be and double it.  Then multiply that by 50.  That’s how good this show is.”  At last, with stratospheric expectations and a smile on my face, I went into the auditorium and waited for the lights to dim.  

Tonight’s show had some great guests: Ed Helms, Colin Hanks, and Linda Cardellini, in addition to the extremely talented regular cast including James Urbaniak, Annie Savage, Craig Cackowski, John DiMaggio, and Marc Evan Jackson, among others.  The show itself is structured like a genre radio program from the 30s or 40s.  They have recurring characters that explore these different genres such as Captain Laserbeam, played by John DiMaggio, who with the help of his “adventure-kateers” protects Apex City from the various ne’er-do-wells in this golden-age comic book style comedy.  Spark’s Nevada: Marshall on Mars, played by Marc Evan Jackson, is a Sci-Fi/Western comedy, and judging by the audience’s reaction, it is a favorite.  There is definitely a lot of give-and-take between the cast and the audience, and having listened to the podcast (free on iTunes) before going to a taping, it’s clear there is a huge advantage to seeing this show live.  The writing is tight enough that it works if you can only listen, but you get a much more immersive experience by sitting in the theatre and seeing the actresses and actors play off one another.  The different segments are bookended by commercials for various fictional products, including Patriot brand cigarettes and “Work Juice,” a hyper-caffeinated energy drink, that are pretty funny, but the real joy was watching the beautiful and talented sister/brother duo Sara and Sean Watkins, two-thirds of the progressive bluegrass band Nickel Creek perform these commercials.  

The Thrilling Adventure Hour dishes out smart and funny writing performed by a cast that is quick, confident, and, being a mixture of comedians and voice-over artists, an incredibly talented group.  Having grown up listening to tapes of “The Shadow,” one thing that struck me about this production was the way in which the cast and the writers approached the style with respect.  They didn’t make jokes at the expense of old-time radio shows, but instead operated deftly within the style and showcased clever jokes that served the situations.  If you like Garrison Keillor’s “Prairie Home Companion,” this show does it with as much class and humor as Keillor, but with some really cutting-edge guests from your favorite TV shows and movies.  It happens once a month at Largo at the Coronet; take a date, take a friend, take your sister, or go alone, but, if you’re in L.A., you’ve gotta see The Thrilling Adventure Hour!

Sam Rhodes


Favorite MovieYojimboFavorite Game:  The newest version of HaloFavorite Beverage:  Ballast Point's Big Eye IPA


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