Live theater, unsolicited commentary. From Detroit to Lansing.


Part of the reason why my most recent Thursday at Go Comedy! seemed to pass at a quicker clip (despite its similar running time) is the presentation of two shows instead of three. More of the reason is that the second of the two offerings is a film. Although I don't plan to migrate into film criticism, this review is entitled "Thursdays at Go Comedy!," so here goes.

The 8 PM time slot belongs to the original comedy Space Fight. Written and directed by Pete Jacokes and Jen Hansen, the 40-minute sketch production presents a skewed view of the Star Wars narrative. The show opens with video of a subtitled toddler babbling her lopsided understanding of the story, and scene changes feature projected images of children's drawings of characters and scenes from the films. While cute and amusing, the through-a-child's-eyes take doesn't completely gel with the story lines of the live sketches: the conventionally heroic Rebel forces being composed of local yokels, Darth Vader attempting a softer leadership style, and workaday slackers musing about the Empire from the apolitical outskirts of the conflict. The plot of the original trilogy is merely alluded to from the periphery of the action, a sort of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead to Star Wars's Hamlet. As with most spoof productions, it appears the better the viewer knows the source material, the more there is to appreciate.

The funniest character of the production is Matt Naas's sulky Vader, who is prompted by the self-help "Darth Carnegie" video series to communicate with his storm troopers instead of choking them to death via the Force. Even covered with a helmet or hidden behind a curtain, Naas earns huge laughs with his damaged and petulant take on the dark lord. Also clever is the thread of Travis Pelto and Chris Petersen, playing disengaged jerks who set out to meet the Emperor simply to settle a bet. The weakest of the stories is that of the Rebel troops, a long take on the single joke that they all enlisted in the mistaken belief that there would be lightsabers. Peppered throughout are meta Star Wars references, my favorite being the stand-alone scene that skewers George Lucas and the revisionist "Who shot first?" controversy. Although the production apes the modern-sitcom mold in which disparate elements merge together in substantial ways by the end, all three plot lines start to lose momentum before reaching said climax. Quickly changed costumes and props supplement a few legitimate pieces (such as helmets) with do-it-yourself flair, one nice tie-in with the childlike perspective of the play's framework.

At 9 PM, the projection screen lowers for the feature-length film Litterbug. The story of an apathetic electronic musician who gets wrapped up in the green movement, the movie is a surprisingly complex blend of love story and environmental message, and intriguing because of the ambitious energy and waste constraints taken on by filmmaker and star Mikey Brown. Nearly all the characters, large and small, have unexpected facets and real humanity, although the film stumbles in painting romantic lead Layla (Tamam Tayeh) as a movie-standard Lovely Girl who can do no wrong. As a Go Comedy! scheduling choice, it works because of the numerous club regulars counted among the cast. As a Thursday installment in particular, Litterbug's extremely low-budget sensibility is well suited to a night generally reserved for more experimental fare. One happy surprise was that Go's occasional battle between comedy-club table chatter and the respectful quiet demanded of a live performance was rendered moot by the medium.

Both Space Fight and Litterbug run through July, with an entirely new slate lining up for August; as usual, viewers can elect to see any or all shows on a given evening. The present Thursday schedule admittedly has a summer-vacation sensibility — short on plays? Show a movie! Yet, however haphazard, Go is making good decisions in bringing something to its audience regardless of the slow season, as well as in its ongoing support of resident company members who pursue original projects, no matter what the form.


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