By John Quinn
In poor economic times businesses become risk adverse. They can’t take chances on the bottom line and will stick with the tried and true rather than face failure and its associated financial loss. Fortunately, local professional theaters are not your typical businesses, or your humble correspondent would be inundated with endless iterations of “Our Town” and subjected to fractured baritones warbling “Try to Remember.” A theater can hedge its bets by relying on tried and true talent to produce the new and unusual. For the production in question, “The Do Over,” Planet Ant Theatre brought in the A-team with BoxFest 2011 winner Kelly Komlen-Amadei as director and successful playwright Margaret Edwartowski for a charmer of a script. The company should reap some choice dividends.
Ben and Bernadette had quite the thing going years ago, but love didn’t lead to marriage. Bernie found Charley, and is the mother of two; Ben married Karen, who doesn’t want children lest motherhood spoil her figure. A chance reconnection on Facebook leads to an online friendship, so it seems only natural that they meet in person while Bernadette is in town for a conference. But other than nostalgia, what do old flames have in common? Well, we learn they’re both in rocky marriages. Should they ignore what they once shared? Or more to the point – can they?
Structurally, “The Do Over” seems simple, but it’s skillfully crafted. In no time it establishes character, setting and potential direction, while only gradually revealing how motive is moving the plot. The audience is immediately drawn to the affable Ben and Bernadette, due in no small part to the beautiful interplay between Jon Ager and Karen Kron. The pair cares for each other and, in turn, we care for them. The bond between characters and audience is cemented by Ben and Bernie’s reminiscing, which is enhanced by their “Polar ring,” Polaroid snapshots from their time together, punched and strung on a plastic ring. The device efficiently, but lovingly, fills in their back story.
Playwright Margaret Edwartowski has justifiably rewarded herself by creating a plum role for actor Margaret Edwartowski – Tolia, the Polish hotel maid. Acting as unsolicited marriage counselor, she delivers two wacky, cautionary tales about the pitfalls of infidelity. This is no star turn; the character and her insights are tightly woven to the plot. The fact that she also has some of the funniest lines seems only suitable.
“The Do Over” runs only about an hour, yet never seems rushed. The story has a beginning, a middle and an end, but just when you think it’s all wrapped up, along comes a sweet little coda that’s like the bow on a present. Kelly Komlen-Amadei’s pacing is so right and her cast so natural that I never caught them “acting.” In a space as small as Planet Ant, that’s an accomplishment.
If you’re pinching pennies this summer and are looking for bang for your entertainment buck, check out the original shows in town. It’s a better investment than “Battleship.” Talk about needing a “do over!”
‘The Do Over’
Planet Ant Theatre, 2357 Caniff St., Hamtramck. 9 p.m. Friday-Saturday through June 16, plus Tuesday, June 5. 60 minutes. $10. 313-365-4948. www.PlanetAnt.com