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Posted on Fri, Aug 14, 2009 : 10:03 a.m.

Take a ride in Ann Arbor Civic Theatre's "Hellcab"

By Jenn McKee

You might want to strap yourself in for a memorable ride when Ann Arbor Civic Theatre’s Studio Series presents Will Kern’s “Hellcab.”

Focusing on a day in the life of a Chicago cab driver, the play features a broad range of colorful characters who enter his car, including born-agains, addicts and a lusty couple. (The show is for mature audiences.)

“The first time through the play, there’s a tendency to laugh a lot,” said director Paul Bianchi. “There is a lot of humor, but it’s dark humor, and when I thought about the ways the characters were behaving, I realized I probably shouldn’t be laughing — because the characters are struggling with what we all struggle with, which is how to relate to each other.”

Thanks to a friend of Bianchi’s, who wanted more cargo hauling space in his minivan, “Hellcab”’s set will include a real car’s backseat; and although we’re now in the dog days of summer, the eight-person cast will have to pretend they’re living in the bitter cold of Chicago at Christmastime.

“It’s really an actor’s script,” said Bianchi, noting that in his production, all of the actors (with the exception of the cabbie) play four roles each. “That challenge of creating these characters, with some of them being pretty extreme, without making them caricatures but real people. … The actors have really risen to the challenge.”

Dramas with this sort of episodic structure — “Hellcab” has 26 short scenes — often struggle to satisfy audiences in a cohesive way, but Bianchi, who’s wanted to stage the show for nearly a decade, thinks “Hellcab” hits the mark.

“The driver takes a journey where his life gets crazier and crazier, going down, down, down,” said Bianchi. “But at the end, there’s this little nugget of redemption with his last fare, and we get his philosophy on things. That we’ve got to treat each other better, be there for other people, and that that’s enough. … After all this craziness, there’s a ray of hope.” Jenn McKee is the entertainment digital journalist for She can be reached at

PREVIEW “Hellcab” Who: Ann Arbor Civic Theatre. What: The Civic's Studio Series - smaller productions presented at the group's home base - presents Will Kern’s episodic drama about a day in the life of a Chicago cabbie. Where: AACT Studio, 322 W. Ann St. When: Friday and Saturday, Aug. 21-22, at 8 p.m., and Sunday, Aug. 2 at 2 p.m. (one weekend only). How much: $10 general admission, $15 for reserved seating. Info: 734-971-2228 or A2CT's web site.

Photo courtesy of Ann Arbor Civic Theatre: From left, Sha James Beamon, Ashley Armstrong, David Babcock, Michael Firn and Andy Jentzen star in Ann Arbor Civic Theatre's "Hellcab."