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By Donald V. Calamia
If nothing else, Metro Detroit's improvisers are a creative bunch – and Ferndale's Go Comedy! Improv Theater has established a cool niche for itself by scheduling a slate of original scripted shows on Thursday nights. And as expected, local improvisers have certainly stepped up to the plate with far more hits than misses.
That's certainly true of Go Comedy's latest pair – Ferndale 2-4-8 and Space Maids – that officially opened April 14 after preview performances the Thursday before. Both are inventive and packed with laughs – and each serves as a showcase for the talented artists who wrote, acted in and directed these entertaining productions.
If you haven't yet ventured to Fabulous Ferndale and checked out Go Comedy! Improv Theater, do so on a Thursday night through May 26. You'll have a fun evening. But don't forget to bring along a stack of quarters for the parking meters, as budget-tight Ferndale cops aren't known for their senses of humor!
To be honest, the opening production of the evening wasn't quite what I expected. But don't get me wrong: Ferndale 2-4-8 had me laughing from start to finish.
Given the show's title and recent promotion, I figured the entire production would be a spoof of the locally filmed TV series Detroit 1-8-7 – but it's not. Rather, the cops of the Ferndale Police Department frame the show and make a few appearances in between, but otherwise there's little connection between the other scenes that fill the show – other than they all might occur in and around the fabulous city of Ferndale.
And you know what? The sketch show conceived and executed by director Bryan Lark and his fine ensemble works just fine, skewering a broad range of current hot-button topics. From Governor Rick Snyder's gutting of the film incentives in his proposed state budget to what will happen to Ferndale after Gay Pride moves to Hart Plaza this summer, the result is a delightful mix of the serious and the silly. Lark and company also tackle the Jobbie Nooner ritual gathering, recent overblown weather reporting by our TV news teams, and the school funding crisis with equal aplomb. Even Eminem's recent Chrysler commercial is ribbed – with an unexpected (yet equally realistic) ending Detroiters will appreciate.
The show opens with a montage of quick blackouts featuring Ferndale's finest, and with only a few skillfully delivered words, Suzan M. Jacokes immediately reminds audiences why she's among Detroit's finest talents. The show then morphs into some of the night's strongest material – a discussion among the cops regarding the city's "gay situation." And the rest of the hour? Well, I don't want to ruin it for you. But Lauren Bickers, the pliable Joe Hingelberg, Tim Kay, Louie Krause and Matt Naas all have moments to shine. And – surprisingly for an improv show – their musical numbers are especially noteworthy! (If anyone can sing a song about grocery store bottle returns and make it work, it's Naas!)
Two cleaning ladies and a stowaway become accidental astronauts in Space Maids, Go Comedy's 9 p.m. Thursday night original scripted comedy.
Greener Cleaners employees TK (Ce'Ann Yates) and Gina (Cara Trautman) are on board the Legacy 9 performing their duties when the soon-to-be deactivated space shuttle mysteriously launches into space. Stuck with them is Trina (Carrie Hall), a love-crazed fan of a famous astronaut who thought she was meeting him for a secret, sexy rendezvous. But that was not to be. Now trapped, the women must figure out how to return home safely, but dangerous space debris is blocking their way. Will anyone come to their rescue? Who is responsible for their unfortunate situation? What will be their ultimate fate? And how does Applebee's figure into the mix?
I'm tempted to say that Space Maid sucks – but that pun would likely give you the wrong impression. Actually, the multi-disciplinary production is very creative and quite funny, thanks to a unique script, excellent video work and delightful performances by its three damsels in distress! (Or in maid outfits, as the case may be.)
I don't know about you, but I'm always wondering where writers get their ideas from, and Space Maids has me especially curious. But no matter: Written by director Pj Jacokes, Andy Seiler (who provides the live voice of the shuttle's computer system) and the previously mentioned actresses, Space Maids goes where no maids have ever gone before – literally and figuratively. Assisting the storytelling are slickly produced videos that allow us to see what's happening at Houston Control and in the media – and those familiar with the improv scene will recognize many of the faces therein. (Insiders might also chuckle at the some of the character names as well.)
All told, Space Maids is an entertaining nightcap to Go Comedy's two new original works. So make sure you stay for both.
And if you don't have to get up the next morning like a certain crank critic had to, then hang around afterward for the popular Flight 1977.
SHOW DETAILS: Ferndale 2-4-8 and Space Maids continue at Go Comedy! Improv Theater, 261 E. Nine Mile Rd., Ferndale, Thursdays beginning at 8 p.m. through May 26. Tickets: $10 each. For information: 248-327-0575 or www.gocomedy.net.
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