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By |2006-03-09T09:00:00-05:00March 9th, 2006|Entertainment|

Review: ‘Crime Stopper Watchers’

Late night laughs at Planet Ant hit close to home

Back in the good old days, pretty much every neighborhood had that one civic-minded individual who took it upon themselves to know pretty much everything that went on in every house on the block. If you had overnight visitors, not only did your neighbor memorize their car’s license plate number, they could also describe them in great detail; and if you went on vacation, they watched your house with hawk-like precision – whether you asked them to or not.
Although such people were accepted as nothing more than nosy neighbors, they did at least serve a purpose. But as crime caused people to lock their doors and draw their shades, such activities became much better organized. So instead of just one lonely person keeping tabs on your every move, you now had formalized Neighborhood Watch groups to fulfill that need.
Yet even within these structured groups – many of which were nothing more than an excuse to party, it should be noted – there was always that one person who took the job a little too seriously. And luckily, most of the neighbors knew that and kept that yahoo out of power.
But what would happen if that yahoo did, indeed, rise to power? And what if he had a merry band of followers to assist him?
That’s the premise behind the late night comedy “Crime Stopper Watchers” that’s now playing at Planet Ant Theatre in Hamtramck.
Lee Frackenback is the kind of neighbor no neighborhood should have to suffer. With nothing but spare time on his hands – he’s on disability after serving in the National Guard – Lee founded the Crime Stopper Watchers after watching his subdivision slide from the third safest in Fowlerville to the seventh most dangerous. It’s an unhealthy obsession that drives him to not only spend $63,000 to convert his garage into a state-of-the-art command center, but also to install secret cameras throughout Bud Court, including inside the homes of his fellow CSWs.
The rest of the team isn’t playing with a full deck, either. Sandy Glass-House is a widow who makes and sells fancy gift baskets for a living. But how her husband died is still a mystery.
Guy Carothers III is a stay-at-home dad with a houseful of kids who are probably more grown up than he is. And what exactly goes on in that tree house of his?
And then there’s Ann Pipe, the neighborhood cat lady who knows all and sees all – and who has a personality akin to fingernails on a blackboard.
Havoc ensues when the team goes out on patrol and overreacts to someone hiding in the bushes. Will they be heralded as heroes? Or murderers?
Like most of the Ant’s Late Night shows, “Crime Stopper Watchers” serves as a creative outlet for the area’s ever-expanding herd of improvisers. Not only do they appear in these productions, but they write them and direct them, as well. But more importantly, it allows them to test their mettle; that is, to try new things and expand their horizons. And they succeed far more than they don’t.
Which is certainly the case with “Crime Stopper Watchers.”
As the day winds down, most people don’t want to think, they want to laugh – and director Jamie Moyer and her cast definitely deliver plenty of honest laughs in this one-hour comedy. Written by the team through the art of improvisation, CSW is a play without pretensions, for if their goal was to do nothing more than take a normal, everyday routine and have some exaggerated fun with it, they surely succeeded. Why? Because these characters all are rooted in reality, but taken to their extremes. We’ve all encountered people just like them, and it’s that recognition – and the hope that such people are NEVER put in charge of ANYTHING remotely important – that makes them funny.
Of course, it also helps to have skilled performers, and in that regard, Moyer has done her job well.
Lauren Bickers plays Ann, a tough old broad, with the perfect blend of abrasiveness and clarity, while Nancy Hayden creates Sandy as a faded Valley Girl-wannabe whose affectations generate both laughs and a tinge of sympathy. And Bryan Lark is perfect as Guy, the quintessential “dimwitted, laid-back, straight married guy on the prowl.”
However, it’s Tim McKendrick – as Lee – who creates the most layered character in the production. Within the scary, tough guy bravado exists a lonely man who yearns to be loved – and he needs to find a meaningful purpose in life. The problem, however, is that you don’t want him finding either in YOUR neighborhood!
This wouldn’t be a Planet Ant production without video – as someone said while freezing in front of the theater last Saturday night – and once again Mikey Brown has proven himself to be a valuable member of the team. The propaganda video – better known as the CSW training video – sets the perfect tone at the top of the show. (And it also provides Tim Robinson with the opportunity to poke his nose into yet another Planet Ant production, albeit only briefly. And assistant director Jennifer Nischan also makes an uncredited appearance.)
“Crime Stopper Watchers,” a Late Night Comedy at Planet Ant Theatre, 2357 Caniff, Hamtramck, runs Thu.-Sat. through March 18. Tickets: $5. For information: 313-365-4948 or http://www.planetant.com.
The Bottom Line: A comedy that begs the question: Do you know what YOUR neighbors are doing right now?


Professional Theater News from Around Town:

Williamston Theatre calls for volunteers

WILLIAMSTON – The Williamston Theatre, Michigan’s newest professional theatre company, needs volunteers. The not-for-profit organization will rely heavily on volunteer support in the coming months and years to help with projects that range from administrative jobs to ushering to physical labor. The theatre is currently building a volunteer database in preparation for upcoming projects.
“Volunteers are the backbone of a not-for-profit organization like ours,” said Development Director Emily Sutton-Smith. “We are a part of the community and we want to involve as many people as possible in the organization. Volunteers can also provide pro bono professional services such as legal, marketing and accounting work.”
The Theatre’s volunteer coordinator is Gwen Chirico-Brandon. Those interested should send an e-mail to volunteers@williamstontheatre.org with the following information: name, phone number, e-mail address, any special skills, availability and what you would like to do for the theatre.
The Williamston Theatre is a not-for-profit, professional theatre company and the newest addition to Williamston’s growing arts community. The Theatre is located at 122 South Putnam, just south of Grand River Avenue. Parking is available on the street and in several municipal lots throughout the city.
Additional information about the company and its founding members is available by calling 517-655-7469 or by logging on to http://www.williamstontheatre.org.

Rochester Hills native to Star in ‘Les Miserables’

DETROIT – Rochester Hills native Leslie Henstock comes to Detroit in the national tour of ‘Les Miserables” starring as Cosette in the show’s final local engagement March 28th – April 16th at the Fisher Theatre.
Henstock has been involved in theatre from a very early age. She attended Rochester Adams High School and performed often with Rochester’s Avon Players. Henstock received her B.F.A. in Musical Theatre from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor where she performed in numerous productions. Although “Les Miserables” is Henstock’s first national tour, her professional theatre experience is quite extensive and includes some impressive playbills. Her regional theatre credits include “Marty,” at the Manhattan Theatre Club and numerous productions with the Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera. Henstock recently released her newest CD, “Defying Gravity,” which can be sampled and purchased on her website http://www.lesliehenstock.com.
Also featured in the final touring cast are Broadway’s final Jean Valjean, Randal Keith along with Robert Hunt as Inspector Javert and Joan Almedilla as Fantine.
Ticket prices for the Detroit engagement of LES MISERABLES range from $28 – $69 and are on sale at the Fisher Theatre Box Office. In addition, tickets prices are discounted for special Easter Sunday performances, as well as a Preview performance on March 28 at 8:00 p.m.
For complete information, call 313-872-1000 or visit http://www.NederlanderDetroit.com.

‘Will Rogers Follies’ comes to Macomb Center

CLINTON TWP. – “The Will Rogers Follies,” winner of six 1991 Tony Awards including Best Musical and the 1992 Grammy Award for Best Musical Show Album, brings its nationwide tour to the Macomb Center for the Performing Arts March 17-18. Performances are Friday and Saturday evening at 8 p.m. and Saturday afternoon at 2 p.m.
The Broadway sensation presents the life and career of Will Rogers as the great showman Florenz Ziegfeld would have – with all the girls, the glitter and the glamour of pure entertainment.
The musical extravaganza is a highly visual account of the life of the famed folk hero, performer and philosopher. Will Rogers narrates his life story through a series of spectacular “Ziegfeld Follies” production numbers that come to life with Ziegfeld Girls, Ziegfeld’s Favorite, wranglers and a roper.
Ticket prices for The Will Rogers Follies range from $40-$45 with discounts available for students, senior citizens and for groups of 20 or more.
For tickets and information, call 586-286-2222 or log on to http://www.macombcenter.com.

Hilberry Theatre announces 2006-2007 season

DETROIT – The Hilberry Theatre has announced its 2006-2007 season – one of the most commercially appealing seasons that the Hilberry has EVER produced and based largely in response to patron surveys. According to Wayne State University Department of Theatre Chair Blair Anderson, “The 2006-2007 Hilberry Theatre season is one with massive appeal to the Greater Detroit area and will help fulfill our mission of educating and entertaining in the heart of Detroit.”
Maintaining a long tradition of award-winning theatre, the season features an astounding lineup of exceptional works.
Season subscriptions went on sale March 1.
Opening the highly anticipated 44th season is Noel Coward’s intimate comedy “Private Lives.” Elyot and Amanda have been divorced for five years, and their tempestuous marriage together is often a topic of discussion with their respective new spouses. A poignant comedy of desperation that explores what happens when you can’t live with each other and you can’t live without each other, “Private Lives” is a clever, witty rendezvous of unmistakable chemistry. It plays in rotating repertory Oct. 6 – Nov. 30.
One of his most popular works, William Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” will continue the season. Journey with the Capulet and Montague families when the ultimate price of forbidden young love was measured by learned hatred, greed and jealousy. Feel the story as if it were your first romance in this timeless tale of passionate devotion. How far would you go for love? “Romeo and Juliet” plays in rotating repertory Oct. 20 – Dec. 16.
The third show in the season is “Side Man” by Warren Leight. This deeply personal memory play explores the effects of the day-to-day grind of a professional musician’s jazz world on family life, recounted through son Clifford’s perspective. “Side Man” provides a picturesque view of how music and society have changed, from the days of the traveling big bands to the advent of Elvis and rock ‘n’ roll – an identifiable link to Detroit’s many musical roots. “Side Man” plays in rotating repertory Nov. 17 – Feb. 3.
2007 will begin with the very powerful drama “Amadeus” by Peter Shaffer, a production directly selected by audience demand. To what extent would you go to win immortal recognition, especially considering that admiration is in the eye of the beholder? Meet two brilliant composers, Mozart and Salieri – one of them humbly gifted, the other viciously envious. Witness the depth of jealous rage that true genius can provoke, even causing one to abandon his vow to God with the sole determination to destroy the other. Full of resentful pain over another’s advantages, “Amadeus” plays in rotating repertory Jan. 12 – March 3.
Next up is “On the Verge” by Eric Overmyer. Embark on a lighthearted excursion through a continuum of space, time, history, geography, feminism and fashion with three 19th-century female explorers as they discover distant lands, traversing time as well as space. As they move through the 20th century, the heroines confront a host of unlikely yet colorful characters in this comedic tale of displaced adventure. “On the Verge” will play in rotating repertory Feb. 9 – April 7.
“The Elephant Man,” a drama by Bernard Pomerance, will be one of many highlights of the season. In a society that values beauty, John Merrick is an outcast: His appearance is so hideously deformed that people run from him in fear. When Dr. Treves saves him from the freak shows, is he really keeping Merrick from exploitation or is he capitalizing on his own agenda to propel studies in human malformation? “The Elephant Man” plays in rotating repertory March 9 – May 3.
The Hilberry season will close with “Translations” by Brian Friel. Personal and political conflicts are intertwined at the deepest levels when a small community faces the brink of irrevocable transformation through changes that unravel the lines of communication between people, countries and speech. “Translations” is a gripping drama which both uses and explores the richness of language and history to weave its tale. It plays in rotating repertory April 13 – May 19.
Founded in 1963, the Hilberry Theatre is home to the nation’s first and only graduate repertory company. The rotating repertory style of presenting seven classic plays in an eight-month season has established the Hilberry as a cultural institution in the heart of Detroit. All Hilberry productions are designed, staffed, managed and performed by up-and-coming theatre professionals. Over the years, the Hilberry has been honored with numerous awards by Detroit newspapers, including “Theatre of the Year” (The Detroit News), “Best Professional Theatre” (Between the Lines), “Best Play” and “Best Director” (The Detroit Free Press), “Best Overall Season 2003-2004” (The Oakland Press), as well as many individual awards for company members.
The 2006-2007 season runs from October 2006 through May 2007, and subscription tickets are on sale beginning March 1. By choosing to become a subscriber, theatergoers have the opportunity to see all seven productions for as low as $84. Student season subscriptions are available for only $49. Student rush tickets are also available for $10 the day of the performance. Groups interested in seeing a production are eligible for special discount rates.
Performances are Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings at 8 p.m., with 2 p.m. matinees on select Wednesdays and Saturdays. Morning matinees are available for school groups interested in attending a performance.
The Hilberry Theatre is located at 4743 Cass Avenue on the corner of Cass Avenue and Hancock in Detroit. The box office is open October through May, Tuesday through Saturday from noon to 6 p.m.
To purchase tickets or for more information call the Wayne State University box office at 313-577-2972 or visit http://www.hilberry.com.


Community Theater Corner:

Kalamazoo Civic Theatre presents ‘Dirty Blonde’

KALAMAZOO – The Kalamazoo Civic Theatre will present “Dirty Blonde” March 10 – April 1 in the Suzanne D. Parish Theatre, 426 South Park, Kalamazoo.
“I made myself platinum, but I was born a dirty blonde.” So said Mae West, as only Mae West could. Two fascinating storylines interweave in this romantic comedy with music. One focuses on the dull lives and unlikely courtship of two avid fans following their chance meeting at Mae’s gravesite. The other serves as a brilliant counter point, tracing the evolution of Mae West’s willful career from young, vaudevillian upstart to the overnight, wisecracking, sexy film star, and ending with the lonely isolation of her later years. We all know of the bawdy, bad girl of American film – the nemesis of W.C. Fields. This is her story told in a uniquely theatrical fashion. Come up and see it sometime!
Directed by Art Nemitz with musical direction by Aaron Cassette and choreography by Kathryn S. Williams, the cast features Lori Worden as Joe/Mae; Adam Weiner in a variety of roles including Kid Moreno and W.C. Fields. Steve Wixson also plays an assortment of roles including Armando, Joe Frisco and Ed Hearn. Dave Holyoak, who is playing Charlie, is making his Civic debut.
Order tickets by calling the Civic Box Office at 269-343-1313 or visit http://www.kazoocivic.com.


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