Regional Reviews: Minneapolis/St. Paul
This being the holiday season, BNW has packaged a collection of (mostly) yuletide sketches, kicking things off with a most winning take on that old favorite, "How The Grinch Stole Christmas," but making it far more up to the minute by substituting the Grinch of the moment, Donald Trump, for Dr. Seuss' original. Of course, the parody is likely to be appreciated mainly by those who enjoy poking holes at The Donald; judging by audience reaction, they are playing to the right crowd. After this opening piece, with Ryan Nelson doing a swell Trump impersonation, three other brief segments in the first act allow for further skewering of the current leader among Republican presidential candidates. With neither shame nor modesty, Mr. Trump lays it all bare, such as this gem, in the context of putting down those who protest against corporate agriculture: "I like my vegetables like I like my women: genetically modified."
Among the numerous other sketches are far more hits than misses. "Famous Songs of the '60s" takes a Time-Life record set spin on giving us a break from the same old Christmas carols by inserting holiday lyrics into old pop tunes. For example, The Four Seasons' "Oh, What a Night!" becomes, "Oh, Holy Night!" and Credence Clearwater Revival's "Down on the Bayou" becomes "Up on the Rooftop." You get the picture. "The Paleo Tango" is a great skewering of the holiday dinner sabotaged by that one family member whose refusal to eat the meal as prepared, and proselytizing about dietary choices. An example of the hilarity is the gray-haired mom singing about her paleo-dieting son: "I cooked all day, and he won't put a bite upon the china./I can't believe that a**hole came out of my vagina!
Other highlights include a first act bit about a boyfriend and girlfriend of four yearsone of them has been keeping some bizarre secretsand a follow up in the second act with the same guy and a new girl. To say more would spoil the mirth. A couple of sketches are both hilarious and poignant: a mother and her young daughter find themselves held captive by obsessive compulsive behavior on Christmas Eve, and a church choir Christmas concert goes off the rails. The closing sketch, a very contemporary rendition of the "The Twelve Days of Christmas" that trades out the traditional gifts for modern aggravations, ends the show with side-splitting laughter.
The current Brave New Workshop ensemble, who both wrote and perform The Trump Who Stole Christmas, are all stars, each and every one: Lauren Anderson, Bobby Gardner, Ryan Nelson, Tom Reed and Taj Ruler. Ms. Anderson is the most go-for-broke outrageous, Taj Ruler channels the impish mischief of Gilda Radner, and Tom Reed makes a splendid naughty boy trapped behind a good boy's face. They are all shameless in reaching for laughs, yet insert wit and relevance into the frivolity. Their timing and rapport with one another is perfect. Director Caleb McEwen moves it all at a lively clip, and does great work connecting the sketches with one another.
Music director Peter Guertin is at the keyboard throughout the entire show, and manages to keep pace with the rapid-fire cast.
Let's face it, good humor is in the mind of the beholder. Topical humor, with a somewhat liberal bent, is not everyone's idea of good humor. However, if it works for you, than Brave New Workshop dishes out as good as it gets. The Trump Who Stole Christmas is one more in a long list of BNW shows that have sent audiences out to Hennepin Avenue on waves of laughter.
The Trump Who Stole Christmas continues at the Brave New Workshop through January 30, 2016. 824 Hennepin Avenue, Minneapolis, MN. Tickets: $18.00 - $36.00. Discount available for seniors (65+), military personnel and students with ID. For tickets or information call 612-332-6620 or go to theatre.bravenewworkshop.com.
Written and Performed by: Lauren Anderson, Bobby Gardner, Ryan Nelson, Tom Reed, and Taj Ruler; Director: Caleb McEwen; Musical Director: Peter Guertin; Technical Director: Matthew Vichlach.