|Denzel Belin, Doug Neithercott, Lauren Anderson,|
and Taj Ruler (photo courtesy of BNW)
Artistic Director and director of the show Caleb McEwan introduces the show, and even plays a few roles in some of the sketches. The troupe uses comedy to delve into some serious issues. Denzel headlines a piece about what it's like to be Black in America today, and the epidemic of police violence against Black men and women, which turns into a laugh-until-you-cry moment. Doug talks about "Don't Say Gay," and how hurtful that is to gay kids. Other sketches are a little lighter, like a running "HR Re-Entry Interview" segment, with people revealing the weird things they've been into the last two years. Lauren talks about her obsession with her new trampoline and making deviled eggs, sitting down (which for some reason had me crying with laughter). Other sketches included a really creepy Paw Patrol fetish, the difficulties of re-entry to working in the office (no pants! pretending you're still on zoom!), a song honoring essential workers that turns a little ridiculous when they begin to question just what that means, and a gay (and lesbian) hype squad.
Speaking of songs, another pivotal cast member is Jon Pumper on keyboard, who seamlessly plays along with the sketches and adds another dimension to the show. He makes the sketches better and funnier, perhaps without the audience even realizing it, and he even gets to play a role or two. After the show the entire cast came back out to do a bit of improv based on audience suggestions, a fun and unexpected addition to the show that showcased this casts' quick and clever comedic skills.
It's a new era for Brave New Workshop, but the work of creating timely, relevant, silly, hilarious comedy hasn't changed. Although they did make a few references to the new ownership - Caleb warned us this was not Moulin Rouge!, and the cast did a few musical spoofs. Thanks to Hennepin Theatre Trust for continuing the legacy of Dudley Riggs and the Brave New Workshop. Comedy is such a great way to process emotions and experiences, and feel a bit of relief and release, and Back to Workshop is the perfect show for that. One thing we've learned over the last two years is that our comedians, actors, musicians, and other artists are absolutely essential to our happiness, mental and emotional health, and to our economy. I go to a lot of shows by myself (#thelifeofatheaterblogger) but this is the kind of show that's more fun with a group, so I recruited my blogger friends from Minnesota Theater Love and Bite Sized Beet, and a great time was had by all.