Encore Michigan

Planet Ant Shows what “Reality” really is With ‘Real Companion’

Review September 15, 2019 Tanya Gazdik

HAMTRAMCK, Mich.— Viewers of reality TV shows generally come in two varieties.

One type of fan deludes themselves into believing that what they are seeing is real and unscripted–that the cameras are merely voyeurs to “real life” happenings. The second group, a tad cynical, believes that just like any other TV program, what they are seeing is scripted, and the characters they are watching are actors, pretending to be “real people.”

In reality, it’s somewhere in between. And the trauma that comes with growing up on camera can’t be discounted.

Real Companion, a new play by Detroit native Margaret Edwartowski at Planet Ant, explores what happens to reality show characters when the shows are over and they are forced to be “real people.”

In this case, its Colin (Quan Chambers), who is recovering from an accident after engaging in hi-jinks with another child reality star, Andy (Pat Roache.) Colin’s mother Irene (JM Ethridge) hires nursing student Cassie (Asia Hicks) to be his caretaker while she takes off on a month-long tour promoting the book she wrote about her life as the mom of a reality TV star.

Cassie, who Hicks plays with total authenticity, was “raised by hippies,” so she has no idea that Colin, Andy and Irene are pseudo celebrities. Even after she finds out, she’s largely unimpressed, and at times is repulsed when some of the old episodes are described. That’s in large contrast to her somewhat daft boyfriend Matt (Baron King) who is clearly starstruck by the two young men, even after they treat him like a punchline to a bad joke.

The two-act play is billed as a comedy, and there are indeed many laughs. But the show has several poignant moments as Colin struggles to establish an identity post-reality TV show. Down-to-earth and upbeat Cassie is the perfect person to help give him some perspective, along with bringing him down a notch when he tries to exploit his physical ailment.

All scenes are set in Colin’s large bedroom, featuring a bed, couch and table. Colin, with his shattered legs, is relegated to either the wheelchair or bed and requires Cassie’s assistance for trips to the bathroom and personal hygiene. Mikey Brown is stage manager and scenic designer, while Emilio Rodrigues directs.

Across the board, this is a perfectly cast and well-acted production and it’s hard to single out any one performance as being more significant than the others.

Roache as the self-medicating via alcohol Andy is memorable as it’s always high drama when he’s around. His character is at times grating, but the audience comes to understand why he’s so messed up after learning about details of his life and truly dysfunctional family. Fresh-faced Cassie is instantly likable and maintains her positive energy, even with the at-times whiney Colin, who seems to relish his martyrdom.

The show breaks after 45 minutes, and the audience is definitely left wanting more. The 30 minutes of the second half move quickly as the audience learns what is to be the fate of Andy and Colin.

Although the ending is mostly feel-good, there’s enough reality in it to make it feel real, kind of like reality TV.

Week of 11/11/2019

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