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By John Quinn
Posted: Nov. 25, 2012 at 3:25 p.m.
Two pair, ace high, is not your usual poker win. But if you play your cards right, surprising things can happen. Never bet against Planet Ant when it comes to off-the-wall, original comedy: They have the upper hand. This round, their "cards" – as in "eccentrically amusing persons" – are a pair of comic kings, Dave Davies and Mike McGettigan; two queens, Dyan Bailey and Lauren Bickers; plus the ace in the hole, Shawn Handlon, director and co-author. The troupe's collaboration, "Bringing Up Baby New Year," is one of the most original seasonal shows ever.
Stop me if you've heard this one – wait, you can't – the story is too unique. An anthropomorphic year is born to a mortal, ages roughly eight years to the month, and is expected to beget his progeny on another woman before he passes on at the stroke of midnight, New Year's Eve. Mike McGettigan plays Baby New Year, who, upon reaching his maturity, launches into a career of boozing, wenching and gambling. Sometime after the expected drive-by marriage to a vapid "celebrity," New Year chooses to redeem himself by making his position with the UN's ICHOP (International Committee for Holiday Observance Protocol) more than a sinecure – if not for himself, at least for his offspring.
Through his obviously short life New Year is challenged by an odd lot of characters: doubting but loving parents, sub rosa bureaucrats, scheming Texas millionaires, cokeheads and jealous Mexican husbands, all played by the other three actors. At the Ant that is aided by the usual quick costume changes – wigs, hats, moustaches and the like. But with this cast, the definition of character is more than change at the drop of a hat. The deft use of vocal inflection and accent is entertaining, but the subtle shifts in body language tell you where character study really paid off. Inevitably the comedy gets a little silly, but, given this preposterous plot, silly is the right way to play it.
"Bringing up Baby New Year" is a double delight. Not only is it a counter-cultural addition to the holiday repertoire, it's an opportunity to see professionals at the top of their game. If I may muddle my metaphors between poker and bridge: Hands down, "Baby New Year" is a grand slam.
SHOW DETAILS "Bringing Up Baby New Year" continues at Planet Ant Theatre, 2357 Caniff St., Hamtramck, 9 p.m. Friday-Saturday through Dec. 15, plus Tuesday, Dec. 4. Running time: 40 minutes. Tickets: $10. For information: 313-365-4948 or www.planetant.com.
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