Metro Detroit’s improv community sure knows how to throw a holiday party.
This past December, area improvisers got together to participate in Planet Ant’s eagerly anticipated Colony Fest – an annual “battle of the improv troupes” that had 24 groups duke it out until one was crowned the festival winner. Bragging rights weren’t the only thing at stake, however: The winner was promised a Late Night slot on Planet Ant’s winter schedule under the tutelage of director Dave Davies.
Well, winter’s here – and so is “Simply Coney: Chili is a Dish Best Served Cold,” a very funny hour of comedy by the winners of Colony Fest 2006, Simply Coney.
Cooked to near perfection and served with a generous portion of guffaws, “Simply Coney” stirs a handful of seemingly disparate ingredients into a delightfully delicious stew that leaves you wanting more – unless you find yourself at the Simply Coney diner and order the chili.
In the opening scene, Dr. Phil – a podiatrist, not Oprah’s pal – tries his best to reveal his love to Maria, a soon-to-be-married fellow podiatrist, but his foot-related imagery leaves her confused and him frustrated.
Next we meet Sam, a not-too-bright youngster who realizes it’s time to say goodbye to his not-ready-to-go imaginary friend.
Then – in one of the more colorful segments – old-timer Gloria Broach is kicked out of her chapter of the Red Hat Society for actively pursuing every Red Hatter’s dream: a role in “Menopause The Musical.”
The plotlines converge inside Gloria’s chef-less restaurant where old cans of Hormel Chili reign supreme. Will Phil ever get over his now-married Maria? Will Gloria find success in showbiz? Will her creepy grandson Sam finally rid himself of his imaginary buddy? And will bus driver Billy Starkland ever stop having Vietnam flashbacks?
That’s for me to know and you to find out, but I will tell you this: If “Simply Coney” represents the type of work improv troupe Simply Coney serves on a regular basis, then I predict it will have a long and successful life as one of Metro Detroit’s premier improv teams.
The imaginative script, written by improvisers Andy Dombrowski, Louie Krause, Adrianna Tatti and Mikey Wilson, is well conceived and quite original. (The timeline doesn’t quite work, however. If Phil shows up at the diner three years after Maria’s marriage, Gloria’s call-back audition was one of the longest on record!) But it’s their well-oiled performances that are especially impressive. Each creates multiple characters that are totally distinct from one another, and each is executed with precision.
The diminutive Tatti shines as rhinestone bespectacled Gloria, while the brightly dressed men – especially Dombrowski – bring down the house as the other – vindictive – Red Hat ladies.
But it’s Mikey Wilson who thoroughly commands the stage as New Yawk bus driver Billy. A great storyteller and character builder, he’s especially adept at working the audience – probably to the chagrin of those he pulled into the show during his very funny Vietnam flashback.
Planet Ant Theatre,2357 Caniff, Hamtramck. Late night, Thu.-Sat., through March 3. Tickets: $5. For information: 313-365-4948 or http://www.planetant.com