By D. A. Blackburn
In its most recent late night offering, the Planet Ant reunites the proven creative team of Mikey Brown and Nate DuFort for a riotous one act musical comedy with an LGBT theme.
Brown (writer/composer) and DuFort (director), the same team behind the theater’s highly successful holiday show, “The Bannister’s Wholesome Family Fun Hour,” star along side a cast of characters familiar to the Detroit-area improv scene in “Out of the Running?” a multimedia work centered on a pair of gay political hopefuls. The work, which serves as a workshop for the troupe, will surely evolve throughout its brief run, but if Saturday’s performance is any indication, it will continue to garner big laughs from audiences gay and straight alike.
“Out of the Running?” could easily have been titled “Out, and in the Running?” At its core, it is a tale of a closeted former quarterback, Dan O’Mara (played by Brown) running for mayor in a mid-sized, Midwestern town. On the advice of his somewhat misguided campaign manager Bunny Lizakowski (DuFort), O’Mara takes a wife to hide his private life and gain standing in the poles. The arrangement seems ingenious to his new wife, Gwen Wakefield (Cara Trautman), who is running for district attorney, and has grown tired of questions about her marital status. Their only problems: Wakefield’s jealous girlfriend, Courtney Shayles (Dyan Bailey), and O’Mara’s inability to keep his “private” affairs out of the public eye.
Drawing on his unique talents, Brown has composed a score of delightfully campy music, and a loose script which allows the four “live” roles to play to the audience.
For his part, DuFort has backed his cast of four principals with a melange of hysterical video projections, lambasting the sensational media – and public television pledge drives – and bringing the divisiveness of modern political campaigning to the front and center. It’s here, on the video screen, that some of the show’s best performances take shape. Jaime Moyer, a familiar face at the Ant, creates a perfect parody of Nancy Grace, as host of the sensational “Whitley’s World.” And Dave Davies takes on the seemingly endless fundraisers of public television, in a two month pledge drive where anything, and everything, can go wrong. Other “news” segments range from absurd political poles, to segment teasers begging questions like, “Children’s car seats: safety precaution or deadly projectile?” It’s also on the video screen that we meet O’Mara’s mayoral rival, a scheming bigot delightfully portrayed by Mike McGettigan bent on running gay bars out of the city. And, of course, it’s here that “Whitley’s World” outs O’Mara in a scandal reminiscent of a certain New Jersey governor.
Though the video work in “Out of the Running?” is extremely funny, the prerecorded segments never upstage the show’s live action. The cast seems to revel in their roles, and characters fit together with a very genuine chemistry. It’s clear that each player has had a hand in shaping the production, and the short work flies by amidst a flurry of laughter.
The work does draw from some generalizations about the LGBT community, but it does so in a good-natured fashion, to great comedic effect.
With another election already on the horizon, “Out of the Running?” seems a perfect primer for the political mudslinging to come. At least at Planet Ant we can find humor in the absurdities of the campaign trail.
(FOR “REVIEW BOX”)
‘Out of the Running?’
Late Night at Planet Ant Theatre, 2357 Caniff Ave., Hamtramck. Thu.-Sat., through May 19 at 10:30 p.m. Tickets: $5. For information: 313-365-4948 or http://www.planetant.com.