I’ll be honest: I wasn’t thrilled to be at the opening night performance of The Second City’s 29th revue this past Wednesday. It was nothing against The Second City, mind you. Or the show. Rather, I had a slight migraine and was still not totally recovered from an upper respiratory infection that had knocked me out the previous week. So the last place I wanted to be was out in public putting on a happy face when I’d rather be in bed early getting a good night sleep.
“This better be funny,” I teased my table mate after mentioning my throbbing noggin. And you know what? It was – so much so that by the end of the night my headache was gone. I don’t know whether or not my quick recovery proved the accuracy of that centuries-old axiom, but what I DO know is this: “Michigan Impossible: All Laid Off & No Place to Go” is one of the most consistently funny nights of improv I’ve seen at The Second City in a long time!
What makes the show so delightful is the ensemble work of its very fine cast of mostly homegrown talent. Like its immediate predecessor, “Michigan Impossible” features the comedic abilities of writers/improvisers Brett Guennel, Quintin Hicks, Tara Nida, Tim Robinson and Megan Wilkins. (Wilkins is the only cast member who did not come up through the ranks of Metro Detroit’s ever-expanding improv scene). It’s a well-oiled team of seasoned improvisers: No single performer tries to overshadow the others, nor does anyone’s ego get in the way of the storytelling. (That was an all-too obvious problem in some earlier shows.) Instead, they work hard as a unit to take advantage of each others’ unique skills – and their efforts certainly pay off in this production.
Created and written with the guidance of returning director Shari Hollett and music director Mark Levenson, “Michigan Impossible” has far fewer clunkers than the average improv show. The laughs begin almost immediately as two spouses (Hicks and Nida) discover their partners’ romantic past (Wilkins and Guennel) while attending a class reunion. Then Hicks and Robinson have great fun playing with stereotypes as a Middle-Eastern Muslim and an American sitting together on a plane, while later, Robinson does his best to crack-up Guennel and Wilkins as a wheel-chaired cop who pulls the two over for speeding. And if you like catfights, hairdresser Wilkes goes ballistic when she discovers longtime customer Nida went somewhere else recently to have her hair cut.
Most gut-splitting, however, is Hicks as a gorilla who wants some lovin’ from his Jane Goodall-like trainer, Wilkins. Later, Hicks scores again – so to speak – with Nida as the owner of Clete’s Garage, the last place you’d ever want to take your car for repairs.
And Hicks finds out what straight men do while watching sports together on TV, courtesy of BTL’s favorite – but honorary – gay couple, Guennel and Robinson, who are keeping LGBT-themed theater alive and well almost single-handedly here in Metro Detroit! What straight guys won’t do for laughs…
The show’s only disappointment comes from the serious lack of Michigan-specific references following the conclusion of the opening musical number. Based on the show’s title I expected more – and given Michigan’s current state of affairs, it’s somewhat surprising that the cast didn’t take the obvious opportunity to skewer more local figures, businesses and headlines throughout the show. (One exception late in the show features an excellent impersonation of Dr. Phil by Hicks as he tries to resolve the splitting up of assets between Detroit and Michigan.)
‘Michigan Impossible: All Laid Off & No Place to Go’
The Second City, Novi. Every Wed.-Sun. through June 3. Tickets: $15-$20. For information: 248-348-4448 or http://www.secondcity.com