Regional Reviews: Minneapolis/St. Paul
B N W's A Very Twisted Christmas
A Very Twisted Christmas, (The Musical!) successfully skewers Christmas. Its high energy young fivesome earns laughter and applause from Brave New Workshop's Leinenkugel-chugging audience, yet this comedy revue feels, well, kind of safe and - I hate to say it - predictable.
Yes, God's in there on his throne, with a beard and a bimbo, and he's dealing with a sulky Jesus, who resents having his birthday coincide with a major holiday. And I winced at Rudolph's off-stage agony when the injured reindeer can't quite succeed at being euthanized. Twisted is not without its dicey potatoes.
My problem with it? I had anticipated a dollop or two of hardnosed political satire chucked in to the Christmas mash to salt it up a bit.
For one delicious moment I thought it was coming. Between skits, the lights go down and, in the dark, I heard the recognizable sound of an in-flight jet engine. They're going to do it, I thought, and on the very next day after Thanksgiving! They'll be on Air Force One on the way to Iraq with the Prez, a turkey and a tear. Hope plummeted. It turned out to be two drunken Northwest pilots in a skit with a fun storyline but, oh! I had so thought for one brief second I was going to be gob-smacked with something punchy and topical.
I believe this youthful crew has the neck to deliver riskier stuff, if director Caleb McEwan would boot them in the right direction. In a clever bit of improv, cute Kristine Kvanli, nerdy Joe Bozic, eager Josh Carson and edgy Ellie Hino stand in a block to become a computer. Big Mike Fotis operates the computer by clapping, and he invites audience members to ask his omnipotent computer questions. "Why did Arnold Schwarzenegger get elected," an audience member calls out. "Because," says Kvanli ... "he," adds Bozic ... "married," continues Carson ... "Maria," says Hino, and Kvanli completes it, "Shriver." Hey! That's darned snappy for turn-by-turn improv, when you don't know what the person before will set up for you.
This is a talented bunch, but they're playing to a bland, Midwestern sensibility. Christmas pique is fine, but it's familiar ... too much Santa, too much sugar coating, too much consumerism, too much bad gift-giving; too many families from hell, forced to be together and, you guessed it, ye olde Christmas office party from hell. Brave New Workshop does it all well enough, with few or no props and, sometimes, the company-generated script is downright original. I liked stressed Santa with his personal coach, learning to say "no" to deserving small children, and the aggro fragrance seller who fells shoppers with a puff of her bug spray-like fragrance.
Twisted is a crowd pleaser. Sure, it's darkish and irreverent. But it's conventional enough that it could join the ranks of Christmas schlock in its own right. This revue digs into social satire. Now, in satire's good name, let's up the ante, Mr. Director. Let's stash some political razor blades in Twisted's over-mashed potatoes.
A Very Twisted Christmas (The Musical) November 26 - January 10, 2004. Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays 8:00 p.m. Saturdays 7:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m. Sundays 7:00 p.m. $15 - 23. Brave New Workshop, 2605, Hennepin Avenue South, Minneapolis. Call 612 332-6620.Be sure to check the current schedule for theatre in the Twin Cities area