A series of five short comedies under the direction of Scott Franco, Live Wire Theatre Company's current production of Sketch This! is supposed to be a choice selection of some of the best sketch comedies available. What it is an analog to the new "Saturday Night Live."
In "Arabian Nights" by David Ives, Jeff AR Jones plays a shopper at a Middle Eastern bazaar, Anna Gettles plays a shopkeeper, and Jess Gephardt plays a wild-and-crazy interpreter whose flowery translations of Jones and Gettles' conversation turns a basic business transaction into a romantic courtship. It is a nice twist, nicely acted.
In "Guys" by Robert Bedlam, Joe Brack of Transactors Improv Co. and Jones play a couple of ordinary Joes sharing a burger at McDonald's and trying to screw up their courage to approach an attractive woman. The script is nothing special, and the performances are only mildly amusing.
In "Married Bliss" by Mark O'Donnell, Carmen Mandley, Jackson Sowell, Heather J. Hackford, and Jones act out a cute little comedy about what happens when an old boyfriend returns to threaten a couple's connubial bliss. Mandley is hilarious here as a regular Ms. Malaprop.
In "Just Be Frank" by Caroline Williams, two women (Heather Hackford and Anna Gettles) vie in a no-holds-barred competition to see who will handle a the marketing firm's new dog-treats account. The comedy is mildly amusing, with Hackford, Gettles, Carmen Mandley, Jeff Jones, and Jackson Sowell all getting in their comic licks.
David Ives' second skit of evening, "Variations on the Death of Trotsky," is by far the highlight of Sketch This! It stars Joe Brack as the famous exiled Russian Revolutionary leader, now living and writing in Mexico City, Carmen Mandley as his wife, and Jackson Sowell as Ramon, a crazed Spanish communist posing as a gardener. (Ramon killed Trotsky on Aug. 20, 1940 by sinking a mountain-climber's axe into his skull.) That axe is already in place in Trotsky's skull when the curtain rises, and Brack and Mandley are highly amusing as they act out variation after variation of the great man's death scene and last words. Sowell, too, makes the most of his moments in the spotlight in this capper to an uneven evening.
Live Wire Theatre Company presents Sketch This! Friday, July 30, at 10 p.m. at Tir na nÓg Irish Pub (http://www.tnnpub.com/ [inactive 9/04]), 218 S. Blount St., Raleigh, NC, 919/833-7795; and Saturday, July 31, at 11 p.m. at Six String Café & Music Hall (http://www.sixstringcafe.com/), MacGregor Village, Cary, NC, 919/469-3667. For ticket prices, call 919/749-5020. Live Wire Theatre Company: http://www.livewiretheatre.com/.