Curtain Calls XTRA

Review: 'Detour of Duty'
The battle continues: Summer comedies couldn't be timelier

Is it my imagination, or are improvisational and sketch comedy shows rejuvenating Metro Detroit's theater scene?
Every day, it seems, a new improv troupe springs up, or another comedy show is created through improv.
Take this summer, for example: Crowds flocked to "The '313'" at Hastings Street Ballroom, while "Business as Unusual" at Planet Ant had its run extended to meet the high demand for tickets. Add to that various late night shows and Ann Arbor's annual TreeTown Performance Festival, and the result, then, is a laugh-filled summer unlike any we've experienced in a very long time.
But summer isn't over yet – and those of us tired of reruns, cheesy reality shows and the antics of our politicians have Hamtramck's Planet Ant Theatre's Improv Colony to thank for "Detour of Duty", a very funny sketch comedy that will surely tickle your funny bone.
Contrary to what the title might indicate, "Detour of Duty" is neither a political diatribe that exists solely to poke fun at a certain sitting president, nor is it a polemic against the Iraq war. (Okay, so it DOES address both on occasion, but what do you expect from a topical comedy?)
Instead, director Mark Mikula and his team of local improvisers have crafted a laugh-filled evening that changes topics faster than a political candidate reverses his positions.
Some of the skits are brilliantly conceived and excellently acted; the funeral for 82-year-old Robert C. Schneider, led by a former game show host turned funeral director, probably gets the most laughs. A few are timely – and probably closer to the truth than any of us would care to admit – such as the group assembled to figure out how to spruce up Detroit's image for the Super Bowl. Others, however, are not as well developed, yet are saved by the hard work of one or more of the actors (such as the voting booth skit), while a couple simply don't work at all.
In other words, it's like every original sketch comedy ever produced – but with considerably far more hits than misses! (Remember: Even "The Carol Burnett Show" and "Saturday Night Live" had their fair share of bombs!)
It's Mikula's cast, though, that especially shines.
In particular, Tim Robinson excels at the many nerdy, quirky characters he's called upon to play in this production. More so than many other local improvisers, Robinson always seems totally in-tune with what's happening on stage. It's that attentiveness that allows him to quickly and skillfully react at a moment's notice, a talent that comes in handy whenever a skit starts to tank.
Also noteworthy is David Herbst who plays both the funeral director and voting booth supervisor with great gusto.
Rounding out the cast – and each with a special moment or two of their own – are Amy Johnson, Lauren Bickers, Adam Burkett and Tamam Tayeh.
Following the Friday and Saturday performances this weekend is "Marc Warzecha: Homecoming," an original and very funny comedy about a 26-year-old man who moves back in with his over-protective mother. Skip this and you'll miss excellent, kick-ass performances by Warzecha and Jamie Moyer!
"Detour of Duty" Presented Thursday through Sunday at Planet Ant Theatre, 2357 Caniff, Hamtramck, through Aug. 29. Tickets: $15. 313-365-4948.
The Bottom Line: There are no summertime blues in Hamtramck this year – Planet Ant Theatre continues its hot streak with topical sketch comedy.


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