One of the surprise hits at last summer’s Box Fest at Hamtramck’s Planet Ant Theatre was a short, 10-minute oddity called “Timeless: The Danceical.” The Lauren Bickers’ creation was so wildly unique and amazingly funny that not only did audience members rave about it for days and weeks – and even months – afterwards, they even voted it their favorite production of the four-day festival.
But rather than let the show disappear into the mists of theatrical history, Bickers had other ideas. And the results are now leaping across the Ant’s stage in what will surely be one of the most memorable short shows of the 2007-08 season.
In its newly-expanded, 45-minute version, “Timeless” is a story of love and discovery set inside a restaurant for lovers called the Sugar Trap. Its manager, Bruce (Bryan Lark), is a haughty sort, whose persnickety rules govern every work detail his employees must perform – including the precise way each napkin must be folded. But when new employee Cassie (Kathryn Trepkowski) appears to have trouble mastering that skill, Bruce decides to take her under his wing – which includes adding her to his list of sexual conquests.
Cassie’s long-time friend Steven (John Hartman) isn’t happy about that. (He’s secretly in love with her.) And neither is manager-in-training Donna (Bickers), who has similar feelings for Bruce. And Miss Rhonda (Cara Trautman), the obnoxiously oversexed widow who owns the place? Well, she’ll flirt and flit with anyone, but she’s focused primarily on Steven who wants absolutely nothing to do with her.
If that sounds like the plot of a fairly typical love comedy, it is – sort of. But it’s also much, much more – thanks to the creative storytelling Bickers and her four talented costars employ to bring the tale to life.
Bickers, one of Metro Detroit’s top female improvisers, has long wanted to integrate dance and interpretive movement into an original comedy. And with “Timeless,” that’s exactly what she’s done.
So is it a ballet, you might be asking yourself? Or a modern dance production? No on both counts. Rather, it’s a play with dialogue in which dance and movement help define the characters and tell their story.
And did I mention that it’s often hysterically funny?
That’s because much of the humor and charm come from the flailing arms and the all-telling glances of the improvisers-turned-dancers who passionately circle and twirl about the stage. It’s not that the actions are silly, although sometimes they are. Rather, each gesture and every expression – no matter how slight or fleeting – are integral to the story. And nary a movement is wasted.
But what’s even more impressive are the performers themselves. Often wearing little more than Daisy Dukes, these – I’ll assume – mostly untrained dancers slickly step into their roles and never look the least bit uncomfortable. Instead, they tackle the show with a fierce intensity, which more than obliterates any lack of grace or skill they exhibit from time to time.
Bickers and Trautman are especially slick, and Lark is appropriately smarmy. But Hartman especially shines – particularly when he’s duck-taped to the inside of a storeroom door and has only his face and limited arm movements to explain his feelings.
(FOR “REVIEW BOX”)
‘Timeless: The Danceical’
Late Night at Planet Ant, 2357 Caniff, Hamtramck. Thu-Sat., through Dec. 22 at 10:30 p.m. Tickets: $5. For information: 313-365-4948 or http://www.planetant.com