By Dana Casadei
Journalism is an ever-changing game. You constantly have to roll with the punches, learn new skills, and stay up to date on, ya know, the news. In “Action Sports News,” Planet Ant Theatre’s most recent original comedy, WHET 2 is a station “where you go for good news,” and shows just how important “keeping up with the Joneses” of journalism is.
Written and directed by Dyan Bailey and Mike McGettigan, with assistant direction by Michael Hovitch, the show takes viewers behind the scenes of a station filled with one straight-laced journalist, a boss that refuses to change, and a few very quirky reporters.
Now, broadcast journalism was never at the top of my list when it came to my journey of becoming a journalist, and this show reminded me why – and that isn’t a bad thing. What can I say? The whole concept of being on camera freaks me out.
Head anchors Gloria Day (Lauren Bickers) and Harry Herpst (David Herbst in a scene-stealing performance) are as different as night and day. While Gloria wants to do “real” journalism, aka more than stories on kitties with kooky names, Harry is totally content. And in this day and age, maybe Harry’s right.
At least that’s what boss Dean Davenport (Dave Davies) believes. After the death of Gloria’s mother, who was a reporter at WHET 2, the station changed to happy news. But Gloria begins to question everything about the station she’s called home for the last four years.
For many journalists Gloria’s battle is a common one. When do you know it’s right to leave, or more importantly, how do you know it’s right to stay? Bickers takes Gloria’s struggle and reminds viewers just how difficult this business is.
As for some of the others reporters, Harry and weatherwoman Jeanette Santino (Melissa Beckwith) are the most over-the-top and constantly bring big laughs. Herbst has a deep broadcaster style voice. Harry constantly refers to himself as Gloria’s “fun uncle,” which is the best way to describe the character, and Herbst brings a heart of gold to the man.
Jeanette is a little slutty, and daffy, and isn’t a character you will root, but I don’t think that’s what she was created for. She’s everything Gloria isn’t, which leads to an interesting parallel between the two women. Beckwith plays the character with fast, slightly spazzy, movements, and has some crazy facial expressions.
Kirstin L. Bianchi’s costumes add a “journalistic” element to the characters. The men, except tech guy Doyle (Patrick O’Connor Cronin), dress in a uniform of button-ups, ties and jackets, looking as close to any local broadcast station I’ve watched. Gloria is constantly in nice slacks and blazers, with the colors becoming more fun as the show goes on. Then there’s Jeannette, whose outfits contain tight, short dresses and shirts that show a lot of cleavage.
As much as I enjoyed the show, it’s ending has a bow that’s wrapped a little too nicely for my taste. Part of me would have been more curious to see what would have happened if things had gone another way, but that’s just me playing devil’s advocate, or what some call a journalist.
‘Action Sports News’
Planet Ant Theatre, 2357 Caniff St., Hamtramck. 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday through March 30, plus 2 p.m. Sunday, March 17 & 24; and 8 p.m. Tuesday, March 26. 70 minutes; no intermission. $20; $10 March 26 only. 313-365-4948. http://www.planetant.com