By Donald V. Calamia, EncoreMichigan
Tis the season of spooks and goblins, and Planet Ant’s Improv Colony has gotten into the spirit of the holiday with the Late Night original comedy “Seance 4.” Directed by Lauren Bickers, the hour-long laugh-filled production will make you think twice about attending this year’s friendly neighborhood Halloween party!
The monthly get-together of the Neighborhood Cul-de-sac Social Club finds Jane (Dyan Bailey), Trent (Michael Hovitch) and Colleen (Tara Rase) at the home of fitness nut Tina (Cara Trautman) for their annual Halloween party, where they decide – with some trepidation – to use a Ouija Board to summon the dead. It continues through Nov. 5 at Planet Ant Theatre, 2357 Caniff, Hamtramck.
After haphazardly checking out the rules, they lower the lights, place their fingers on the planchette (the triangular piece that slides across the board) and call out for the dead to visit them – particularly, Tina’s deceased androgynous lover Aaron (or is it Erin?), whose death she feels responsible for.
“You will not regret this,” Tina tells her friends as they embark on their adventure. But I suspect she’ll change her mind about that rather quickly.
I knew we’d be in for one wild, but funny ride simply by looking at the list of the play’s creators – and “Seance 4” certainly lived up to my expectations. Bickers and her four actors – along with jack-of-all-trades Sean McGettigan – are all seasoned veterans of Southeast Michigan’s improv community, and each knows how to write a satisfactory script and create a unique character.
That’s especially true of Trautman, who instinctively knows just how far she can go to stretch her character – in this case, a five-foot-two hyper-active body builder – without ever snapping. And Tina’s “meltdown” towards the play’s end is proof of that.
Rase also has fun with Colleen, the weird, finger-licking neighbor all of us have lived near (and avoided) at one time or other. And put a pair of black horned-rimmed glasses and a sweater vest on Hovitch, and the always-entertaining actor is transformed into a very believable nerd who is still pining for his divorced wife.
Then there’s Bailey, whose timing and facial expressions are always a delight.
The uncredited set looks like many a basement rec room I’ve been in over the years. And on opening night, the snacks – props, of course – tempted many who walked past them on their way to their seats. (They were quite the topic of conversation before the performance began.)
All of the technical work – sound design by McGettigan and Bailey and uncredited lights – provide the perfect seasonal ambiance. (One cue, though, may have been missed at the end of the show – that of the talking cookie jar that’s inhabited by the gang’s recently deceased gay neighbor.)
And I can’t help but wonder: Which came first, the plot or the decision to resurrect the rather unusual painting of Aaron/Erin – in reality, of improviser Bryan Lark, which was used in an earlier production? Either way, it’s equally as creepy as the rest of the show! And just as funny!
See showtimes and ticket information at EncoreMichigan.com.
Donald V. Calamia is the editorial director of EncoreMichigan.com, the state’s most comprehensive resource for news and information about Michigan’s professional theaters. He is also the theater editor of Between The Lines, for which he created The Wilde Awards, a “must attend” annual event at Detroit’s Gem Theatre that honors the work produced by the state’s professional theaters. Calamia is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists and the American Theatre Critics Association.