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Summer's supposed to be a time when people hit the great outdoors, but nobody seems to have told it to metro Detroit's small theaters, many of which are continuing to produce plays and hold inventive gigs as summer wears into its dog days.

At Detroit's Zeitgeist Gallery, there's more new art than the 10-foot-tall sculptures planted out front by artist Bob Sestok; there's a massive month-long art sale of more than 500 pieces, part of a fundraiser before the venue takes a break for August. On July 28 is Zeitgeist 10th Anniversary Freakout, with a barbecue, bits from actors and poets, and a performance from Blackman & Arnold. Zeitgeist reopens in early September as the home of the Abreact Theater Company (2661 Michigan Ave., Detroit; 313-965-9192).

Meanwhile, Michael McGettigan keeps cranking out the comedy. The Wilde Award-winning playwright has a new three-episode play at Planet Ant Theatre. As of press time, the first installment has already been staged, but curious theatergoers can drop in on two more weekends to see the final parts of Everything Is Not Okay, a play that seems like Jean-Paul Sartre's No Exit set in a Gitmo-style prison. It's an ambitious experiment to divvy up a play into a serial, and McGettigan aims to keep audiences (and his cast) guessing until the end.

Not Okay is the late-night show that follows 8 p.m. performances of Bottle of Red, a fast-paced sketch comedy revue with the leading ladies of metro Detroit improv, Nancy Hayden and Margaret Edwartowski. Also, keep your eyes peeled next month for appearances by the Improv Colony, a visit from Los Angeles' 313 group, and Boxfest, featuring plays performed, directed and written by women. The second installment of Not Okay is scheduled for Thursday-Saturday, July 19-21, with chapter three scheduled for Thursday, July 26-Saturday, July 28. Bottle of Red is performed Thursdays through Sundays until July 28 (Planet Ant Theatre, 2357 Caniff, Hamtramck; 313-365-4948).

Ann Arbor's Performance Network has mounted a play about one of the sassiest women ever to grace the stage, Mae West. Starring Carla Milarch, Claudia Shear's comedy, Dirty Blonde, chronicles the life and times of an unsinkable talent whose career spanned from vaudeville to Hollywood. At Performance Network, 120 E. Huron St., Ann Arbor; 734-663-0681; Thursdays- Sundays through Aug. 19.

Although it's quite a drive for some of us, Sea of Fools continues in Chelsea. Set at the height of the McCarthy era, the plot involves an undercover G-man, a group of deluded actors, the funeral of their charismatic "leader" and an appearance from Elia Kazan. At Purple Rose, 137 Park St., Chelsea; 734-433-7673; performances Wednesdays-Sundays through Sept. 1.

Farcical antics at Ferndale's Ringwald Theatre are taking a turn for the serious this month, with the Who Wants Cake theater company staging Richard Greenberg's 1997 stage drama Three Days of Rain. The setup is intriguing: In 1995, Walker, his sister Nan and their childhood friend Pip meet in a vacant loft in Manhattan to divide their late fathers' legacy, a renowned architecture firm. Finding a cryptic passage in an old diary, they wonder what happened all those years ago, during "three days of rain." The play — which had a notable revival in New York last year, starring Julia Roberts in her Broadway debut — marks the directorial debut of Joe Plambeck. At 22742 Woodward Ave., Ferndale; 248-556-8581; performances Fridays-Mondays through July 30.

There's so much small theater in the area that we can't keep track. A group called Barebones Theatre Productions is putting on a collection of comedies by Michigan playwright Kim Carney at The Ringwald Theatre in Ferndale on Aug. 6. After a local showing, the folks in The Way It Is travel to the Minnesota Fringe Festival for a staging there. We really couldn't tell you about the plot, but the zany publicity shots, starring a redhead, a guy in drag, a woman with a multicolored Afro wig and Bacchus, intrigue us. Another photo appears to be of Santa Claus violating the Mann Act. For more information, call 586-292-2738.

Lastly, Jacob Plante, a recent local theater graduate, has assembled a group of his peers and organized the Flipside Theatre Company. "Instead of going off to New York, Los Angeles or Chicago," Plante says, "we've decided to stay here and make something happen." Flipside plans to operate out of 1515 Broadway, stage Elaine May's Adaptation, and, eventually, achieve nonprofit status.

Michael Jackman is a writer and copy editor for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected] or call

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