'Fish Dinner' is a tasty dish indeed

By John Quinn

The late lamented resident company of The Second City left Detroit with a wealth of talented improvisational performers. Not satisfied with occasional gigs at comedy club, some are exploring less traditional experiments in the genre. Latest to hit the boards is Quintin Hicks in his one-man show "Fish Dinner" at Planet Ant Theatre in Hamtramck.

Improvisational theater is usually a group experience. Del Close, longtime beloved performer and director at The Second City Chicago and guru to a couple of generations of improv experts, had deeply held philosophical beliefs in the power of the ensemble - some communal, some actually tribal, some downright arcane. It takes a grounded performer to take the stage solo with his own material, and we're grateful Quintin Hicks took the leap of faith. "Fish Dinner" is testament to his talents as writer and performer, and is damned funny to boot.

The title is only tangential to the play. "Fish Dinner" is a series of monologues by oddball characters sprung from Hicks's fertile imagination. But don't be surprised if you run across someone you know. The characters may be over the top, but they're firmly anchored in reality. The individuality Hicks brings to his "cast" is deeper than just changing a costume or donning a wig. The characters take on a life of their own as the actor disappears - one of the best of experiences for audience and performer alike. It's one of the hallmarks of the genre.

Hicks has a few partners in crime who should be noted. Improv extraordinaire Dave Davies is the director, here probably a reliable sounding board of what works and what doesn't. Geff Philips, on keyboard and sound effects, ably weaves the scenes together. While Joe Becker is noted as stage manager, he's running the light board in the notably less than ideal conditions of Planet Ant's facility. The lighting is warm, even and well designed for the pace of this show.

So while Hicks has besmirched my family name by creating a bombastic, egotistical pro wrestler who goes by the moniker "The Mighty Quinn," I can forgive him this one time. Wrestlers and theater critics - we're always throwing our weight around.


'Fish Dinner'

Planet Ant Theatre, 2357 Caniff Ave., Hamtramck. Friday-Saturday through April 16. $10. 313-365-4948. http://www.planetant.com

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