Encore Michigan

Planet Ant Goes “Dark” for ‘Christmas Impossible’

Review November 26, 2017 Tanya Gazdik

HAMTRAMCK, Mich. — Planet Ant’s holiday spoof Christmas Impossible is at its core funny and entertaining. But toward the end, there’s also an important and thought-provoking lesson.

In a nutshell, the premise is that it shouldn’t take a holiday to get you to appreciate your friends and family. You need to tell them and show them how you feel every day. The song and dance the cast uses to present this simple message is very well done and actually quite adorable–not something I typically expect from the usually edgy [Planet] Antsters. The entire cast does a great job of maintaining energy and momentum through the very last minute of the two-hour two-act play. (There’s about a 15-20 minute bathroom break midway and both acts move fairly quickly.)

If you already are sick of the holidays even though we are only just past Thanksgiving, not to worry. This is not your typical holiday-themed production. It’s a fresh adaption of the 2003 Planet Ant original holiday comedy, 25, written and conceived by Dave Davies, Jaime Moyer, Brett Guennel, Cara Trautman, Nick Smith, Catherine Hong and Mark Mikula.

Adapted by Shawn Handlon (also one of the actors) and directed by Davies, this new production features Lauren Bickers, Nick Boulahanis, Jaclynn Cherry, Michael Duprey and Amy Probst. The original music is by John Edwartowski with musical direction by Mikey Brown.

Ole Solcheck (Cherry) is a fallen guardian angel. She is fired after deciding that five of the humans she is supposed to be protecting are not worthy, and frankly would be better off dead. Banished to Earth, she decides her best chance of getting her job back is to save the lives of those she had previously condemned. (She is transported there 25 hours before the incident that takes their lives.)

Without revealing too much, it should be noted that the play is not PC and does venture into the political just a tad. It’s R-rated in other ways, too, so please, for the sake of all of us, leave the kids at home. (Unless you are that weird parent who wants to sit next to your kid at a play with references to oral sex in the script.)

It’s hard to single out one or two cast members since they all do a stellar job in their numerous parts. Handlon, who is also artistic director at Planet Ant, plays the most hilarious and unexpected version of God you ever may see, along with John Winthrop IV (the proprietor of the Deck the Halls Museum) and another character, Lester. Cherry does a great job portraying Ole’s sassiness while still making her endearing and sympathetic. Bickers is perfectly cast as the spurned and bitter wife. We also get to hear her “valley girl” accent as one of the other characters she plays. Probst very nearly steals the show as the over-the-top Noel, whose love of Christmas is taken to the extreme.

The scenes switch quickly from location to location and the cast makes numerous appearances. If you pay attention to costumes and wigs, it’s easy to tell when they have switched. The simple set, designed by Davies, doesn’t change during the numerous location switches, but it works well. The fireplace is more elaborate than it appears, as its chimney accommodates the entry of Santa — sort of.

Considering how many times and how quickly the characters must change costumes, costume designer Rebecca Berdy does a splendid job, particularly with the choir robes (or as one character amusingly notes, they also could be worn by gay judges.)

This is one of most ambitious productions I’ve seen at Planet Ant. If you like the holidays, you’ll enjoy the references, and even if you’re jaded, you’ll be amused and may appreciate the sentiment.

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