Multi-character shows create comic delight at Hilberry, Planet Ant

Photo by Bruce Giffin. Michael Manocchio (left) as Richard Hannay faces Michael Phillip Thomas at gunpoint in “The 39 Steps,” a hilarious spoof of the Alfred Hitchcock movie, through April 25 at the Hilberry Theatre, 4743 Cass in Detroit. For tickets or more information, call 313-577-2972 or go to

Photo by Bruce Giffin. Michael Manocchio (left) as Richard Hannay faces Michael Phillip Thomas at gunpoint in “The 39 Steps,” a hilarious spoof of the Alfred Hitchcock movie, through April 25 at the Hilberry Theatre, 4743 Cass in Detroit. For tickets or more information, call 313-577-2972 or go to


In a weekend filled with amazing actors playing multiple comic characters, the Hilberry’s “The 39 Steps” and Planet Ant’s “See You Next Doomsday” proved entertaining, clever and delightfully irreverent.

“The 39 Steps,” at the Wayne State University’s Hilberry Theatre, 4743 Cass Ave. in Detroit, is a hilarious spoof of the Hitchcock thriller. Patrick Barlow adapted the play from the novel by John Buchan and the Hitchcock movie of the same title.

Remaining performances are at 8 p.m. April 23, 24 and 25, and at 2 p.m. April 25.

Tickets are $10 to $30, and are available at the box office, by calling 313-577-2972, or online at

The Hilberry production adds three stagehand characters, dressed in backstage black, to the traditional cast of four, under the imaginative guidance of guest director Russell Treyz. They play everything from doors to sofas to motor cars, and they create some remarkable sound effects that enhance the sensory entertainment of the show.

With the exception of the role of Richard Hannay, all the actors play multiple roles, requiring strong acting chops and amazing focus.

The talented cast includes company members Michael Manochio as Richard Hannay; Bevin Bell-Hall as the woman; Brandy Joe Plambeck and Michael Phillip Thomas as the spies; and Devri Chism, Julian David Colletta and Santino Craven as the stagehand characters.

The lightening quick costume and character changes are amazingly impressive.

Costume designer Mary Gietzen created both beautiful period costumes and flexible character costumes for rapid changes while retaining believability, a tricky feat.

Scenic designer Tonae Mitsuhashi uses a multi-level set from back wall to wings. The production also uses the catwalk balcony spanning the back of the house for a spy-versus-innocent man foot chase.

Actors interacted with the audience, asking them quiz show questions for Mr. Memory, and even hiding in the house when being pursued by nefarious agents of uncertain allegiance and deadly intent.

Those who have seen the show before will find this production fascinating and very different, yet equally entertaining and engrossing.


“See You Next Doomsday” at Planet Ant in Hamtramck is a funny show that never takes itself too seriously.

It has clever lines, a fast pace, and does a lot in a small performance space with minimal props and a lot of pantomimed action. True theater fans will want to see this.

When a present day self-proclaimed slacker takes an accidental two-week side trip to a future post-apocalyptic earth filled with enemies who want to kill or eat him, he must survive by his wits until he can reconnect with the UFO driver who landed him in the wrong Earth era after an extraterrestrial joy ride.

There are many amusing cultural references throughout the story, and it is funny to hear what current jargon survives, and what is hysterically misinterpreted.

Future humans fear cell phones as “alien guns.” Americans sneak into Mexico, which has annexed many southern U.S. states.
Itinerant actors travel the land, acting out ancient movies like “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” in a way reminiscent of road companies that perform classics like Shakespeare today.

Mike McGettigan of Dearborn and Shawn Handlon of Harper Woods, who have written more than 50 original plays together, opened “See You Next Doomsday” April 10 at Planet Ant for a four-week run.

Remaining performances are 8 p.m. April 24 and 25, and May 1 and 2, and 2 p.m. April 26 at the theater, 2357 Caniff in Hamtramck.
Tickets are $20. To order online, go to

Directed by Lauren Bickers of Hamtramck, the amazing cast, who play multiple roles in the fast-paced show, includes McGettigan and Handlon, Jade Fearn of Hamtramck, Michael Hovitch of Ferndale, and Moni Jones of Northville.


Henry Ford College presents the 2003 Tony Award-winning Best Musical “Hairspray,” with lyrics by Scott Wittman and Marc Shaiman, music by Shaiman, and book by Mark O’Donnell and Thomas Meehan.

Show times are at 8 p.m. April 24, 25, May 1 and 2, and 2 p.m. April 26 and May 3 in the MacKenzie Fine Arts Center on the HFC campus, 5101 Evergreen in Dearborn. High school matinees are 10 a.m. April 27, 29 and May 1.

Tickets are $15 for general admission, $12 for staff and seniors, and $10 for students with valid identification. To order, call 313-845-6478, or go to and click on the “buy tickets” link.

Mary Bremer-Beer directs the show, with Kevin Dewey as musical director, Diane Mancinelli as choreographer, and Gerry Dzublinski as technical director.

Set in Baltimore in the 1960s, “Hairspray” follows the adventures of “pleasantly plump” Tracy Turnblad, who auditions and wins a spot on a popular teen dance show, “The Corny Collins Show.”  She then leads the fight to racially integrate the show.

Bremer-Beer said she loves the music in “Hairspray” and its focus on the civil rights movement of the 1960.

“It’s about discrimination of any kind, really, such as Tracy’s weight problem,” Bremer-Beer said. “The fact that racial problems have come around again and are an issue today makes it topical.”

Bremer-Beer said a man typically plays the role of Edna, Tracy’s plus-size mother.

“I believe having a man play the mother is comic relief to offset the seriousness of the racial problems prevalent in ‘Hairspray,’” Bremer-Beer said.

The cast includes Kayla Aue of Garden City as Tracy Turnblad and Randall Nicholls of Allen Park as Link Larkin.

Eric Varga of Dearborn plays Edna Turnblad, with David Alexander of Dearborn Heights as Wilbur Turnblad.

Caitlin Castle of Brownstown Township plays Penny Pingleton, with Judy Fletcher of Hazel Park as Prudy Pingleton.

Anna Loftus of Dearborn plays Amber Von Tussle, with Shauna Rae Hazime and Mary Makled, both of Dearborn, double cast in the role of Velma Von Tussle.

Marcellus Hogan of Detroit is Seaweed Stubbs, with Dennis Marin of Dearborn Heights as Corny Collins.

Michael Parks of Southgate is Rocco Crooner, Brittany Reed of Benton Harbor is Motor Mouth Maybelle, and Alenna Mae Brown of Detroit is Inez.


The Downriver Actors Guild presents “The Awesome 80s Prom,” an interactive dinner theater, at 6 p.m. April 24 and 25 at Biddle Hall, 3239 Biddle Ave. in Wyandotte.

Tickets are $25, and include dinner and the show, with a cash bar. To order, call 313-303-5269 or go to

Directed by Denny Connors, the interactive “blast from the past” takes you to prom in 1989 with assorted characters from Wanaget High School.
Guests are encouraged to dress in ’80s attire, and will vote for a prom king and queen at each performance.

The cast includes Danielle Weinkauf of Allen Park as perky prom planner Missy Martin, and Noah Bias of Wyandotte as preppy class president Michael Jay.

Taylor residents Jacob Partrich and Mitchell Sturm play testosterone-driven football players, ready to party with wild and ready cheerleaders Megan Slaith of Garden City and Paige McElmury of Allen Park.

Thomas Koch of Gibraltar plays burnout Nick Fender, with Nathan Vasquez of Allen Park and Tara Richardson of Southgate playing nerds.

Heather Hansen of Southgate plays cheerleader wannabe Molly Parker, with Harold LaBeau of Taylor playing flamboyant thespian Dickie Harrington.

Carolyn Sohoza of Allen Park plays Inga Swandon, with David McDonald of Taylor as Feng Schwey, the foreign exchange students.

Gary Jenkins of Monroe plays Principal Dick Snelgrove, and June Ford of Woodhaven plays gym teacher Patty Lascalzo.

Jonathan Butterfield of Wyandotte does break dancing, while Jim King of Taylor spins the tunes.