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A timely romp at Go Comedy!

By | 2018-01-16T07:36:31-05:00 January 19th, 2012|Entertainment|

The more things change, the more things stay the same. While that might be part of the message delivered by “The Tim Machine” at Ferndale’s Go Comedy! Improv Theater, it’s also descriptive of Metro Detroit’s tight-knit improv community.
Having observed them from the time The Second City arrived in (and later, departed from) Detroit way back when, it’s been fun to watch as one group of improvisers sharpen their skills, earn their reputations and then move on (and often, out of state). Their places, then, are taken by a new set of young and enthusiastic creators looking to make a name for themselves. Detroit has been a breeding ground for such talent; Larry Joe Campbell, Keegan-Michael Key, Josh and Nyima Funk, and Jaime Moyer are a handful of local luminaries who have headed west in recent years, while Dave Davies, the Jacokes clan and Bryan Lark still delight area stages after several years of service to the community. But what’s even more fascinating is to watch what happens when one of Detroit’s most beloved improv divas works her magic with the latest crop of up-and-comers – and hence we come to Go Comedy!’s latest original comedy.
From the year 2052 comes an 80-something-year-old time traveler with dire news of the future. But rather than finding himself in 2012 as expected, Tim lands in the middle of a protest – in 1972. Oddly enough, it looks like every other protest he encounters as he jumps through time – including the modern-day Occupiers, who have much in common with their earlier Hippy counterparts. A stunning revelation greets his return to 2052, and so the question he must solve is this: What changed, and when?
Although time travel stories often give me a headache – even the “Star Trek” folks had problems making sense of them over the years – “the Tim Machine” is a delightful romp, not only through time, but also through the political and social spectrum of American society since the 1970s. Many of the eras’ hot-button topics are explored – gay rights, equal rights and war, for example – and patrons may be surprised by how little things have actually changed over the years. (Change often comes in small increments, I guess.)
What’s NOT small, though, are the laughs – and they’re well deserved.
“The Tim Machine” was written by the production’s cast under the careful supervision of writer/director Nancy Hayden. (Additional writing is by Vivi Jona.) A co-founder of Hamtramck’s Planet Ant and a regular on the main stage of The Second City, Hayden is a revered figure in the improv community. Although she’s been away from the spotlight for awhile, “The Tim Machine” succeeds in part because of her sharp storytelling ability and the slick staging that keeps the show briskly moving at all times. Most notable is this: Every skit or scene has a fully developed beginning, middle and end that pays off with a bang rather than a whimper (something that doesn’t always happen in shows such as this), and even the most random-seeming skit ties directly into the overall plot (another occasional flaw in similar shows). In short, it’s a well-thought-out and well-told story. (Except I do have one minor complaint about the script: The cheap jokes about breasts cheapen the otherwise polished writing. But I’m probably showing my age here…)
Serving up the comedy is a well-oiled team of improvisers, each of whom improves every time I see them.
Tim Kay – who plays Tim, of course – has an impressive set of tools that serves him well: a malleable face and limbs that seem to go in multiple directions at the same time. And his quick thinking and wit earned plenty of chuckles on opening night when lightning-fast costume changes didn’t go quite so smoothly.
Then there’s Gary Lehman, who thrives on playing odd and quirky characters – one of which earns big laughs in one of the most ingenious moments of the production: that of a horny neighbor who can’t wait for the action to begin at a “key party.” (You’ll likely have to be of “a certain age” to remember what that is.)
In the same scene, Jenny Bloomer cracked me up fighting off Lehman’s advances. And in a skit set inside a Wal-Mart, Bloomer’s brief entrance (and outfit) and droll line delivery stole the scene from Lehman and their fellow actors.
Not to be outdone, ensemble members Heather Sejnowski, Sean May and Michelle Giorlando also had moments to shine as well.
Add to the mix the funky time machine by Tommy LeRoy, Michelle LeRoy’s lighting and – I’m making an assumption here, since it’s not credited in the program – the excellent choice in music (possibly) by Pete Jacokes, and the result is yet another original comedy I suspect will pack the house each night of its run at Go Comedy!

‘The Tim Machine’
Go Comedy! Improv Theater, 261 E. Nine Mile Rd., Ferndale. Thursday-Friday through March 2. $15. 248-327-0575. {}

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