Meet the Rogue

Live theater. Unsolicited commentary.
From Detroit to Lansing.

Carolyn Hayes is the Rogue Critic, est. late 2009.

In 2011, the Rogue attended 155 plays, readings, and festivals (about 3 per week) and penned 115 reviews (about 2.2 per week).

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Theaters and Companies

The Abreact (Detroit)
website | reviews | 2011 SIR

The AKT Theatre Project (Wyandotte)
website | reviews

Blackbird Theatre (Ann Arbor)
website | reviews | 2010 SIR

Detroit Repertory Theatre (Detroit)
website | reviews

The Encore Musical Theatre Co. (Dexter)
website | reviews

Go Comedy! (Ferndale)
website | reviews

Hilberry Theatre (Detroit)
website | reviews | 2010 SIR

Jewish Ensemble Theatre (West Bloomfield)
website | reviews

Magenta Giraffe Theatre Co. (Detroit)
website | reviews | 2010 SIR

Matrix Theatre (Detroit)
website | reviews | 2010 SIR

Meadow Brook Theatre (Rochester)
website | reviews

Performance Network Theatre (Ann Arbor)
website | reviews

Planet Ant Theatre (Hamtramck)
website | reviews

Plowshares Theatre (Detroit)
website | reviews

Purple Rose Theatre Co. (Chelsea)
website | reviews

The Ringwald Theatre (Ferndale)
website | reviews

Tipping Point Theatre (Northville)
website | reviews | 2010 SIR

Threefold Productions (Ypsilanti)
website | reviews

Two Muses Theatre (West Bloomfield Township)
website | reviews

Williamston Theatre (Williamston)
website | reviews







« Edward II | Main | Good People »

Action Sports News

Oh, local news — so ambitiously overstated, so determinedly solemn, so laughably irrelevant. Now at Planet Ant Theatre, writer-directors Dyan Bailey and Mike McGettigan merrily amplify the absurdity of the bush-league broadcast in Action Sports News. This world-premiere production gains comic footholds in wild, ridiculous moments and characterizations, but finds its ultimate success in threading an emotional, congenial story through its workplace ensemble.

The play stays entirely within the confines of the WHET newsroom, the realm of anchors Gloria Day (Lauren Bickers) and Harry Herpst (David Herbst), station owner/manager Dean Davenport (Dave Davies), and a few new faces, namely inexperienced weather nitwit Jeanette Santino (Melissa Beckwith) and untested local celebrity athlete Sam Hall (Louie Krause). The atmosphere is sufficiently rinky-dink to begin with, but Bailey and McGettigan heighten the triviality with a loopy premise: the station promises to report only good news. The concept not only makes way for great ancillary content (no shortage here of local photo-op contests, baby animals of predictable cuteness, and radiantly worthless investigative series), but it also plants a real story seed, in Gloria’s understandable aspirations to do more serious work for bigger markets. Amid a handful of secondary workplace concerns, the main thrust of the plot becomes a thoughtful look at the push-pull of change versus constancy, outgrowing one’s professional home, and losing one of the family.

The little station that could is held together with tape and spit — probably literally — by its Doyle of all trades (Patrick O’Connor Cronin), the epicenter of surging misfortune and captain of wincing physical humor. Designer Katie Orwig’s endearing play-set studio prominently features a video screen backdrop, which adds frequent point-counterpoint hilarity in the form of Bailey’s masterfully funny graphics and shrewdly implemented video segments. By the same token, lights by Kevin Barron create a clear on-air/off-air divide that proves indispensible for the show’s multitudinous focal points and swift pacing. The affectation of professionalism is rendered complete by the costumes, which revel in familiar Everynews blandness courtesy of designer Kirstin L. Bianchi.

The script appears to draw no shortage of inspiration from The Mary Tyler Moore Show (TV news setting, ambitious female lead, gruffly vice-riddled boss…); happily, the sitcom elements and feel are well deployed here, and the comparisons largely favorable. What’s more, the comic writing is catapulted by comic performances, from Beckwith’s usurping sexy-baby idiocy, to Krause’s elephant-in-the-room shell shock, to Cronin’s propelling profanity, to Davies’s disproportionate stress. However, even among a strong team, Herbst’s luminous turn as the overreacting plastic nincompoop Harry stands out as a triumph of superior timing and sidesplitting spinouts. Bickers capably carries the straight-woman weight of the comparatively sane protagonist, interjecting her resolution with gentle inner discord. Critically, the grounding support of Gloria’s colleagues proves to be Bailey and McGettigan’s best move; by steeping the plot in conflict rather than blatant antagonism, the show finds an amicable tension that lends warm undertones to its ample goofy humor.

At a rushing 80 minutes with no intermission, and with many of the same faces, Action Sports News does feel markedly similar to one of Planet Ant’s late-night original comedies by its Home Team of improvisers. But most of the differences are cosmetic (a more polished design concept, longer running time), and the similarities are all strengths (predominating silliness, showcase of off-the-wall characters); what sets this apart as a mainstage show is its attention to theme and story as well as character and scenario. Ultimately, the production delivers a sweet and clever meditation on career ambition and workplace home, resting on the bedrock of raucous, lighthearted comedy for which these Planet Ant mainstays are renowned.

Action Sports News is no longer playing.
For the latest from Planet Ant Theatre, click here.