Wild and wacky and The Abreact

By Donald V. Calamia

We're all entitled to our own opinions.

That's generally the consensus here in America where free speech is cherished above almost everything else. But what if that opinion runs contrary to one espoused by whichever political power is in office at the time - especially a right-wing, "love it or leave it," God-fearing party that inwardly seethes whenever dissent is encountered?

That's the overall question addressed in "Whackjob," the timely and funny bone-breaking comedy written and directed by the wildly imaginative Mike McGettigan that opened last weekend at The Abreact. And if your opinion differs - and I suspect it might, based upon whichever side of the political aisle you sit - that's okay; that's what makes America great.

You might not think that, however, if you were Ann Philpot, a housewife locked up in a hospital run by the diabolical Dr. Benegarus. Sent there by her husband Jeff - an America-loving stockbroker who never questions the government's motives or actions- Ann's sin was admitting her confusion over the country's state of affairs. "I just can't trust our government," she tells him. And before she knows it, she's whisked away for treatment "to become normal" again.

"Normal," of course, is in the eyes of the beholder - and it quickly becomes obvious that everyone she encounters in the hospital is anything but, including the narrow-minded, cigar-chomping doctor who's fine-tuning his invention to brainwash his patients into accepting the right-wing philosophy. Although her predicament runs contrary to traditional American ideals, what can be done to stop it?

Plenty - thanks to the high-octane imagination of the show's creator. McGettigan, a member of Michigan's improv community and short filmmaker, has become somewhat of a Renaissance man recently. Appearances in "Pink Thunderbird" and "A Number" at Planet Ant have made folks take notice of his dramatic acting skills. But it's his work as a playwright and director where he's most impressive. (A previous effort, "Space F*ckers," won the 2005 Wilde Award for Favorite Original Production or Improvisational Comedy.)

With "Whackjob," his fourth and slickest original work yet, McGettigan excels at examining a handful of serious subjects - such as blind patriotism, terrorism and the failed war on drugs - but from a rather quirky - or wacky - perspective. He also gives one heck of a performance as the intense, but clueless Dr. Benegarus. (Few actors gladly change their looks so dramatically for a role as McGettigan.)

The show's success is not a solo effort, however; excellent performances are also given by his top-notch ensemble cast.

Lauren Bickers (as Swayze, a woman trapped living the life of the character Patrick Swayze played in "Dirty Dancing"), Charles Slapson III (as Gary, the quiet, always-at-peace gay martial arts expert whose revelation to Benegarus helps drive the show to its conclusion), Eric Janssen (as the bandana-wearing Jesus), Dustin Gardner (as Todd, the unhappy creator of "Texas Walker Ranger"), Peter C. Prouty (as Jeff) and Sean McGettigan (as Mohammed, a young Arab-American who came to apply at the hospital for a job, but ended up confined as a terrorist) all deliver well-defined characters.

And Jaime Moyer (as Ann)? Her reactions to the insanity spinning around her are priceless.

(FOR "REVIEW BOX")

REVIEW:

'Whackjob'

The Abreact, 442 E. Lafayette, Detroit. Fri.-Sat., through May 12. Free/donations accepted. For information: 313-247-5270 or http://www.theabreact.com

The Bottom Line: You might not agree with his politics, but we can all agree on one thing: Mike McGettigan delivers yet another wacky and very funny comedy.

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