Brave New Workshop
A company of four writers and performers - Lauren Anderson, Joe Bozi, Mike Fotis and Kim Sigler - take aim at easy targets, but donít spent enough time hunting for more difficult ones. That makes for a night of cheap laughs, but not enough to make a left-leaning Minneapolitan (like myself) truly feel uncomfortable.
Like past Brave New Workshop shows, the evening is a string of sketches stitched together by a running bit - in the Democratic Party Secret Headquarters, Hilary Clinton, Howard Dean and Al Gore are given a make-over by an image consultant. The potential here is good, but the characterizations are so timid and dated (Clinton is mad at Bill and really wants to be a man; Gore is boring; Dean screams a lot) that there is little bite.
Other sketches flop completely, like a bit where the former Camp Snoopy at the Mall of America is made into "Donkeyland." None of the observations are particularly funny or insightful, and it ends with a reference to a shooting at the Mall of America that happened 15 years ago. While parody songs have always been a mainstay of the company, nothing the cast attempts is particularly memorable - except that most of them have trouble carrying a tune.
What keeps the evening going are the bits that work. There are a series of bits where a political candidate gets slammed by a string of increasingly brazen ads, ending with the accusation that he was a producer of the horrid Little Man, and his complete inability to deal with the attacks. Independent candidates get their due in a funny speed dating sketch, ranging from a child molester who wants, um, full disclosure to an appearance by Batman (considering Minnesota elected a professional wrestler as governor and had a candidate this year who claimed to be a vampire, that's not too far off the mark). Also fun is a "how to dress like a Minnesota Democrat" bit (with sage advice about walking the thin line between college professor and homeless man) and one where a newly turned 30-year-old worries that he may be a Republican. The last has the most potential of anything during the night, but loses energy when it can't come up with any funny Republican archetypes.
The show's real failure comes from how timid it is. Considering the local political situation - did I mention there was a vampire on the ballot? - there are plenty of opportunities to make insightful, biting and funny comments about the current situation in Minnesota, instead of having Howard Dean growling through the night. Considering that South Park, the Simpsons, Arrested Development and a ton of other shows and comedians have blown the lid off political humor, pulling punches does no one any good.
The Left, the Right, and the Ugly; or Blue State Blues runs through Nov. 4 at the Brave New Workshop, 2506 Hennepin Ave. S., Minneapolis. For tickets, call 612-332-6620 or visit www.bravenewworkshop.org.