Asterisks, at the Playground Theater. Sketch-comedy shows often try to find humor in the familiar. But Asterisks stands out for how well its three writer-performers exaggerate what we say and do in everyday life--without overdoing it. Eric Hunicutt, Jamie Newland, and Paula Pazderka are funniest in their 70 minutes of scenes (and one tacked-on song) when they simply take recognizable personality traits up a notch or two.
Smartly written bits use emotional contrast to good effect. An angry protester shouts, "I'm suffering, pay attention to me!" at a friendly police officer who offers her cookies and asks for a hug. And two timid pregnant women are harangued in prenatal class by a bitter instructor who takes a boot-camp approach. Asterisks also tackles grief, an emasculated husband's use of Cosmo to win his working wife's attention, and the bluster of businessmen, bandying about a barrage of words beginning with b. Some of the best lines come during a sketch in which a threesome is postponed in favor of Twister and tickle fights.
As directed by Katherine Gotsick, the show features sleek, stylish transitions, and the performers instantly establish the scenes and characters with tight object work and committed performances. Some sketches lack punch, but at a late-night show it's a good sign when even the sober audience members are laughing.