Review: ‘All Childish Things’
Fun times at a theater not far, far away
Luke Skywalker, as every “Star Wars” aficionado knows, would never abandon his friends, nor would he fail to save them from every nail-biting cliff-hanger tossed his way by creator George Lucas. Rather, the simple farm boy-turned-Jedi Knight could always be counted on to swoop in at the last minute and save the day.
Dave Ballanski, however, isn’t his much beloved fictional character. Nor can the pickle he’s in be resolved by blazing lightsabers and X-wing starfighters. So what’s a “Star Wars” nerd to do when his quiet life takes a life-threatening turn, and he’s faced with the toughest decision he’s ever had to – or will ever have to – make?
That’s the two-million dollar question local playwright Joseph Zettelmaier asks – and answers – in Planet Ant Theatre’s highly polished and thoroughly delightful comedy, “All Childish Things.” And you don’t even need to be a “Star Wars” aficionado to say, “Damn, that was fun!”
“Star Wars” fanatics to the extreme, basement-dwelling Dave and his longtime buddies Max Farley and Carter Sloan – along with Carter’s much disliked girlfriend Kendra Johnson – have come up with a daring plan to break into the Kenner Toys warehouse where six copies of every “Star Wars” toy ever produced are stored – in mint condition. It’s the ultimate collector’s wet dream, and the very rich and very secret buyer Kendra has lined up will pay big money for whatever booty they can grab.
Despite meticulous planning, the robbery proves disastrous. And when his friends need him the most, Dave’s fanaticism takes control – leaving the rest to fend for themselves. “Luke always comes back,” one of the characters assures the others. But will Dave?
With two strong, female-centered dramas still fresh in the minds of local theatergoers – “The Stillness Between Breaths” at Performance Network Theatre and “Night Blooming” at the Blackbird Theatre – the talented Zettelmaier scores a hat trick with a near-perfect script that fully unleashes his comedic instincts. It’s a concept full of fresh ideas and plenty of surprises, and it proves he’s equally adept at writing about men and our relationships as he is at crafting tales about women and theirs.
But what really shines is his ear for writing realistic dialogue for characters that everyone can identify with. Plus, he’s totally respectful towards his creations; never does he make fun of them because of their nerdy ways.
Neither does director/set designer Eric W. Maher. At its core, “All Childish Things” is a tale about trust and friendship, and it will be successful only if the audience totally believes the deep bond shared by Dave, Max and Carter. So not only did Maher cast a fine team of performers who pull that off, he also built upon the author’s framework by giving his five talented actors room to explore the many levels of their characters’ humanity. The result, then, is a fast-paced comedy that finds not only the humor that exists within Zettelmaier’s very funny story, but its heart, as well.
Kelly Rossi (Kendra) and Chris Roady (Carter) give memorable performances, and Peter C. Prouty is thoroughly convincing as Dave, the geeky computer programmer who safely secures most of his prized possessions in a walk-in safe built into his basement.
But most impressive are Joe Colosi (Max) and Joel Mitchell (Big Man Al and the voice of Mrs. Ballanski). Watch both of them closely and you’ll see every thought their characters are thinking.
There’s just one warning, though: Although the temptation will be great, please don’t play with the dozens of “Star Wars” toys spread throughout Maher’s amazing set. You break ’em, you pay for ’em!
“All Childish Things” runs Thu.-Sun. at Planet Ant Theatre, 2357 Caniff, Hamtramck, through July 29. Tickets: $10-$15. For information: 313-365-4948 or http://www.planetant.com.
The Bottom Line: Summer entertainment doesn’t get much better than this!
Confessions of a Cranky Critic: The Apology
Critic ‘struts’ his stuff, and it’s not pretty
So there I was last Wednesday afternoon lambasting my overworked managing editor for an unauthorized change that was made to my review of “The All Night Strut” at Lansing’s BoarsHead Theater. I huffed and I puffed, smug with arrogance that the work that I, noble theater and arts editor, submitted was perfect just the way it was – and that the unnecessary and incorrect change made me look like a flaming idiot.
However, a very sweet e-mail I received only a few hours later from Katie Doyle who works at that very same theater proved me wrong.
And it proved me to be that very same flaming idiot I claimed not to be only a short time earlier.
Embarrassedly and shamefully so, in fact.
“Thank you so much for the great review on ‘Strut,'” she politely wrote. “I did want to let you know that in your review, though, I think you meant Jason RICHARDS when you were referring to him and Sharriese Hamilton ‘eagerly filling in the rest’ and Richards’ ‘smooth moves commands notice.'”
Yes I was, I thought. Isn’t that what I wrote?
Nope; it sure wasn’t.
Instead, I repeatedly referred to him as Jason ROBERTS.
I could try to explain it away by claiming senility. (There IS a person in my past named Jason Roberts.) Or better yet, by this mathematical equation: Actor Jason Richards + director Lance Roberts = Jason Roberts.
Or I could simply admit that I totally screwed up and failed to verify everyone’s name like I’m supposed to.
And for that I deeply and humbly apologize: To our readers, to everyone at the BoarsHead Theater, but especially to Jason Richards who kicks butt in “The All Night Strut.”
It continues a hot streak that began in May 2005 with Richards’ award-winning performance in “Brighton Beach Memoirs” at the Jewish Ensemble Theatre Company, followed in the fall by “Broadway Bound.” He was recently nominated for a 2006 Wilde Award for his role in “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” at Meadow Brook.
But his best work can be seen through July 9 in “The All Night Strut.”
Despite being called by the wrong name in my review!