Live theater, unsolicited commentary. From Detroit to Lansing.


Thursday nights at Go Comedy! occur in one-hour increments. Come at 8, 9, or 10 PM, and stay as long as you like. See one show for ten bucks, or see all three shows for ten bucks. Brief intermission-like breaks in between allow plenty of time to reset or to mingle with the performers, who hang out at the bar. Thursdays are easygoing, casual. Mind you, once on the stage, these aren't the Not-Ready-For-Weekend-Timeslot Players; this blend of Go regulars and area professionals has comedy prowess to spare.

At this shrine to improvisation, Thursdays were originally set aside for sketch comedy. The new lineup remains scripted, but has let go of the sketch concept for the time being in favor of three short plays, all written by local artists, and all with some flavor of comedy (c'mon, they're not going to rename the theater Go Drama! just for Thursday night). At 8:00, The Opal Show is restaged from BoxFest Detroit '09, written by Kim Carney and directed by Shannon Ferrante. The 9:00 spot belongs to Hobo, originally written and directed by Tim Robinson for the Planet Ant, now with a new cast and direction by Tommy LeRoy. Finally, Michelle LeRoy's brand-new Dial R for Radio Drama at 10:00 is billed as an "experimental improvised show," in which the script of the radio play can't account for what happens off the page.

The Opal Show stars Sarah Switanowski as Opal and Bryan Lark as Vito. She's a dollar-store employee who lives by her television, he's in waste management, and the intersection of their lives causes danger the likes of which at least one of them has never known before. The show's framework is in monologues delivered by both characters as they are questioned by police; their very different stories unravel by the use of flashbacks that seem to tell what really happened. Ferrante's direction may not translate particularly well to this primarily empty space, as the lack of furniture and adornments is especially noticeable with only two performers, and the only place for the bed is far upstage; however, stage manager Peter Jacokes's lighting helps with transitions and gives a dramatic edge to the police station scenes. As Opal, Switanowski seems to wear her motives on her sleeve; believing herself to be worldly, she is instead clumsily and obviously manipulative. This is one of Lark's best performances: he's simultaneously thuggish, confused, and earnest, with a perfect sense of Vito's heart as well as the confidence to earn laughs simply by being an open book.

Hobo has a larger cast, most of whom play dual roles. Hero Mike Walsh is a legend among the hobos; in his story, he is the only sane character in a sea of blindly ambitious crazies. Unfortunately, he's written as superior and judgmental even when his arguments make perfect sense. As Mike, Garrett Fuller manages to be humorous but not hateful, which keeps the story afloat. Equal amounts of comedy are mined from the insanity of rule-bound, corporate-culture life and the grittiness of its polar opposite, the hobo world. In the former extreme, Jon Ager is a gay-repressing, compensating boss who likes to wield his power through random workplace drug tests. In the latter, Suzie Jacokes does a thing so spectacularly gross, so committed to the bit, that just alluding to it makes me need to brush my teeth again. A minor drawback in Tommy LeRoy's direction was the sense of lull in group scenes; players shrunk into the background so that one person would speak/move/emote at a time, making for a handful of static stage pictures. 

Dial R for Radio Drama was hands-down my favorite of the evening — leaving early is unadvisable. This team of smartly dressed and coiffed bygone-era performers gathers around a single microphone to rehearse, then broadcast, a brief radio play. However, one of the show regulars must be replaced, and the hapless Foley artist must step out from behind the sound-effects table for his first speaking role. Then there's the starstruck new cast member, and the contentedly drunk old pro, of which it's hard to determine who is worse at her job. To my delight, it was utterly impossible to discern what was planned out in in director Michelle LeRoy's Frankemproviscript and what was spontaneous. Actors Jeremy Conn, Julia Garlotte, Michelle Giorlando, Jen Hansen, and Brian Ogden are completely attuned to each other, and the result is a nonstop outpouring of comic setups, one-liners, and even stage combat that had me in stitches.

This Thursday lineup has a sampling of everything: from the complex characters and engaging story of Opal, to the crazy-ass freakshows of Hobo, to the tight ensemble and inventive concept of Dial R. Three hours is a long time to be assaulted with comedy, so I'd encourage viewers other than the very, very committed to see just one or two and save the rest for another week. However, note that only Hobo runs into March; the others are extremely limited engagements.


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