In years past, The Second City-Detroit was known for its biting satires. No subject was deemed too sacred, and no local personality went untouched. But over time, the topics became somewhat generic and the humor less scathing – and this once-great institution seemed to lose its edge, despite a tremendous wealth of on-stage talent.
But along came the juicy, but sordid saga of Kwame Kirkpatrick, and it proved too tempting for Second City alumnus Marc Warzecha to ignore. The result, "Kwame a River: The Chronicles of Detroit's Hip-Hop Mayor," is one of the sharpest and most incisive satires to appear on The Second Stage in ages!
The scripted comedy opens with Kwame cleaning his office on his last day as mayor. In pops the Spirit of Detroit – the statue that sits in front of the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center on Woodward Avenue – who tells him she's sickened by his actions. So in a Dickens-inspired romp through Kwame's past, present and future-yet-to-come, the two explore the REAL story behind the gangsta mayor's many (and sometimes illegal) activities.
And it seems the trouble began the moment Kwame first uttered his oath of office!
Writer/director Warzecha leaves no Kwame myth or urban legend unturned. He strips bare the rumored party at the Manoogian Mansion; unholsters the secret anger management class the mayor scheduled for his out-of-control Executive Protection Unit; peeks in on the seductive, last-minute plea before Governor Jennifer Granholm; and wraps his arms (and legs) around the answer to why (then) Detroit City Council President Pro Tem Monica Conyers voted against a resolution asking the mayor to resign.
Plus, we discover what REALLY blocked a plan to extend light rail service from Detroit to the northern suburbs – and it wasn't race!
Dozens of famous Detroiters past and present help put Kwame's actions into perspective. Warzecha is at his satirical best, however, with a visit from the always colorful (but often unquotable) Mayor Coleman A. Young, who sings "What good is power if you don't know how to abuse it?"
The show's most hysterical moment this past Friday night, however, was a brief appearance by Sam Bernstein and his family of famous attorneys. This totally politically incorrect moment brought down both the house and most of the actors – and after the performance, it generated the liveliest discussion among the exiting patrons. They LOVED it – although SOME, I'm sure, are STILL feeling guilty about it!
Although Warzecha's cast is fresh to The Second City's main stage, avid area theatergoers will recognize ensemble members Renell Michael White, Jenaya Jones Reynolds and improviser Jason Echols. Rounding out the cast are Connell Brown Jr. as Kwame, and ensemble members Amise (who also plays the Spirit of Detroit) and Sharon Brooks.
Two days into the run, Warzech's script is tighter and stronger than the performances by his actors. But as the talented ensemble has more time to explore (and have fun with) their characters, that will change. However, the infamous Second City Curse has struck again: The actors are far better with comedy than they are with music.
'Kwame a River: The Chronicles of Detroit's Hip-Hop Mayor'
The Second City, 42705 Grand River Ave., Novi. Wed., Fri., Sat. & Sun. through March 22. Tickets: $15-$20. For information: 248-348-4448 or http://www.secondcity.com.