"The Big Story of Lazarus Small" opens the new season at Planet Ant Theatre. Photo: Planet Ant

The Tall Tale Of The 'Come-back' Kid

By John Quinn

You have to feel for Lily Small. She's caring for her delusional father who, in his less lucid moments, thinks he's Queen Victoria. She's hoping to raise the household income by training as a sommelier and still pay the bills. But her biggest burden is her husband, Lazarus. While laid off from work, Lazarus, by chance, played the glassy-eyed "satisfied client" in a local legal-eagle's TV ad. The experience has gone to his head; he's spending money the family doesn't have readying himself for Hollywood, fame and fortune.

Then Lazarus drops dead.

You'd think that set-up would make local playwright Linda Ramsey-Detherage's new comedy, "The Big Story of Lazarus Small," a really, really short one-act, but the protagonist's name should tip you off. Like his namesake - despite organ donation, funeral and cremation - Lazarus Small is risen from the dead. His inexplicable resurrection makes him the darling of the talk show circuit, while Lily is left home dealing with groupies, reporters, government agents and investigations for insurance fraud.

All this makes for an evening of choice satire, a slap upside the head for the cult of celebrity. The show is buoyed by presence of some of the usual suspects when something funny is goin' on in Detroit theater. "The Big Story of Lazarus Small" is directed by Dave Davies, aided and abetted by a half dozen cut-ups who have established reputations for quality performances. They would be Joel Mitchell as Lazarus, Lisa Melinn as Lily, Dan Jaroslaw as her dizzy Dad, and Joe Hamid as their best friend, Ben. Dyan Bailey and Patrick O'Connor Cronin round out the cast, playing the odd balls with whom Ramsey-Detherage fills out her story.

But "The Big Story of Lazarus Small" isn't all a laugh riot. There's real heartache in Melinn's sensitive turn as a dutiful daughter missing the father who "isn't there." The connection is made easier by Jaroslaw's sad Dad - alert and intelligent in his right mind, delicate and wispy when he's lost it. Hamid plays a rock of reliability, as Ben steps into the role of "family man" that Lazarus won't - actually can't - fulfill. Mitchell plays madcap with ease, but can be touching when he exposes his character's vulnerability.

This is an all-around fine ensemble.

"The Big Story of Lazarus Small" is a short piece - a little over 90 minutes with intermission - and there is a sense, small though it be, that there is some filler here. The comedy is so solid that it wouldn't be diminished by attention to the more emotional aspects of this fantasy.

Celebrating harvest season, Planet Ant Theatre reaped the cream of the comic crop in producing "The Big Story of Lazarus Small." Home grown always tastes better.

REVIEW:

'The Big Story of Lazarus Small'

Planet Ant Theatre

2357 Caniff, Hamtramck

8 p.m. Friday, Sept. 12, 19, 26

8 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 13, 20, 27

2 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 14, 21

1 hour, 35 minutes

$10-20.

313-365-4948

http://www.planetant.com

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