Regional Reviews: Minneapolis/St. Paul
Also see Arty's review of The Gest of Robin Hood
Brave New Workshop, masters of sketch comedy and improvisation, could not be expected to sit out this hotly contested election season. This is BNW's 57th year of operation, meaning that this is the 16th presidential election they have had the opportunity to skewer. But, let's face it, none has offered as much potential for satire and madcap comedy as this year's contest. In truth, many of the actual press statements, tweets and rebuttals have the feel of sketch comedy if only it were so. But the Smart Alek's at BNW knew that they could take it all up a few notches, and have done just that in their current production, Lady and the Trump.
Other than the cute play on words, Lady and the Trump bears no resemblance to the sweet puppy love story told in the namesake animated film. BNW's show is, by turns, acerbic, sophomoric, insightful, offensive and, most of the time, hilarious. The show opened just before the Republican and Democratic conventions, so its sketches do not reflect those events, with the exception of a "Weekend Update" like news desk segment that apparently gives the cast opportunities to give breaking news the comedy heave-ho. As the title indicates, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump receive the majority of BNW's attention, with both treated to the typical BNW makeover from serious public figure to a zany caricature of themselves (depending on your political persuasion, you are free to take issue with that last statement). Digs are also aimed at Bernie Sanders, Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Ted Cruz, Bill Clinton and others.
The comedy starts during the usual pre-show instructions regarding silencing cell phones, refraining from talking during the show, and the locations of restrooms, when two cast members pounce out in the role of rest room security, threatening to crassly check the gender of each rest room user in a very funny take-down of the current bathroom wars. An opening rap gives an overview of all the candidates and the outcome of their efforts. Sketches include White House ghosts (Eleanor Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, Abe Lincoln, Ruth Bader Ginsburg who admits to not being dead and others) haunting both Clinton and Trump; a dinner party at Jeb Bush's home where Jeb continuously turns invisible to Mrs. Bush and their guests; and Clinton gloating quite ungraciously over a defeated Bernie Sanders.
One sketch gives us an uneducated couple's preference for a quack doctor, who speaks in language they understand, to their degreed cardiologist a shot at the draw certain political figures have to those with less education. Another presents a young man and woman who are great, platonic friends, but whose loving kindness to each other turns to venomous assaults at their political differences on Facebook. A long sequence in the second act has BNW cast members Lauren Anderson and Taj Ruler performing the "Women's Act," then breaking down in anger and despair, over the need, in 2016, for such a spot to exist, generating both laughs along with a tightening of the stomach.
Speaking of BNW cast members, as usual, they bounce on and off stage with dazzling rapidity, playing a variety of characters with great versatility. Anderson takes on the role of Hillary, and Ryan Nelson portrays Trump. Both make use of signature phrases, postures and speaking mannerisms to establish their characters, along with the assistance of wigs. Taj Ruler plays Bernie Sanders (another wig!), along with other parts. Tom Reed and Andy Kraft are the two Update news anchors, and also take on a wide range of roles. Musical Director Josie Just tirelessly keeps the keyboard going, providing underscoring as well as lively accompaniment to the shows musical numbers.
Lady and the Trump offers a lot of funny business, but be forewarned that some of the material is definitely for adults. With that disclaimer, the show provides a welcome chance to laugh at the craziness that has taken hold of our national elections, proving the inherent value of a good sense of humor. The show is unlikely to change anyone's mind about their own political leanings, but the wackiness of the contenders on stage at Brave New Workshop may give us some perspective to help us endure the real thing.
Lady and the Trump continues through November 5, 2016, at the Brave New Workshop, 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, Andy Kraft, Ryan Nelson, Tom Reed, and Taj Ruler; Director: Caleb McEwen; Musical Director: Josie Just; Technical Director: Matthew Vichlach.