Speed Dating Triggers a Fall at Planet Ant

By Daniel Skora

Michael Owen Smith and Jaclynn Cherry Photos by Her & Him Studios

Grandma never heard of speed dating and probably wouldn’t have approved if she did. Courtship should be a slow, easy process, she would have pointed out, and how about those marriages that have lasted for decades even though the two partners despised each other at first encounter. But speed dating, where a guy and a girl get but a few minutes together to exchange “personalities” and quickly must determine if they’re compatible enough to hook up with each other, appears to be the latest thing on the dating scene. And in this superfast digital world, it just might be here to stay.

Jaclynn Cherry as Grace and Michael Owen Smith as Mitch

Planet Ant is presenting “The Fall”, a quick 50 minute one-act comedy that concerns itself with Grace (Jaclynn Cherry) and Mitch (Michael Owen Smith), two millennials who find themselves seated next to each other in the waiting room of “ConnectionZ Plus”, a company that provides speed dating services to those looking  to find a  match. Ironically, they’re there because of encouragement received from the most unlikely of sources: Grace is there because her mother wants to have grandchildren, and Mitch, because the woman who works at the market where he shops thinks he should be buying more than one banana at a time.

“The Fall” plays like it owes its parentage to improv. It’s a series of sketches that explore the idiosyncrasies of speed dating and the developing relationship between Grace and Mitch. Many of the sketches could play well enough on their own. Writing credits for the show actually belong to the two cast members along with the director, Lauren Bickers. The sketches are stitched together by theatre’s time-honored “lights out” tradition, which is just as well since both actors play several parts and the interludes of darkness give them time to affect a costume change, don a wig, or otherwise prepare for a change of scene. The set is minimalist, the two lone chairs center stage the only constants. The main props consist of a jar of jelly and another of peanut butter that do more to define the character of the two speed daters than any of the questions they are asked to answer on the application forms.

Jaclynn Cherry and Michael Owen Smith

Cherry and Smith have good chemistry and make for a compatible stage couple. Smith is much more laid back, at times almost deadpan in his reactions. Cherry chews up the stage with her enthusiasm and personality. Terrific last year in Detroit Rep’s “Devil Dog Six” and a noteworthy  addition to the ensemble in “Peter and the Starcatcher” at this season’s startup of the Open Book’s season, Cherry demonstrates she can carry a show (with a little bit of help) by herself.

Why “The Fall”? All great titles carry with them multiple meanings. In this case, “Fall” should be followed by “…for each other”. Another “fall” that happens towards the end of the play has the potential of undoing everything that has gone before. Which leads to yet one final “Fall”, as in a “Fall from Grace”.

There was an enthused audience, a bit raucous actually, the night this reviewer saw the performance. Many were themselves millennials, typical Planet Ant-ers who probably have their own positive thoughts about speed dating. Those who think that Woodstock is a bird or that 16 gigs is the number of performance dates on a musician’s three- month calendar might be wading in unchartered waters. But culture change is always interesting, the show rings exceedingly funny, and Ms. Cherry’s bubbling, enthusiastic performance is an absolutely positive takeaway.

Michael Owen Smith and Jaclynn Cherry

Moni Jones shares directing chores and also serves as stage manager. “The Fall” runs through October 29th. Tickets are available online at www.planetant.com or in person at the theatre on the night of the performance based on availability. Planet Ant is located at 2357 Caniff in Hamtramck.

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