Sunday, March 17, 2024

"Love and Other Things that Ruined My Life" by Brave New Workshop at Dudley Riggs Theatre

Valentine's Day may be over, but Love and Other Things that Ruined My Life is timeless! Brave New Workshop's new sketch comedy show, which opened Valentine's Day weekend, pokes fun at love, relationships, breakups, and all things related (and not related). Unlike that four-letter word love, the longest running comedy theater in the country never lets you down with their silly, smart, relevant, and sometimes just plain goofy sketches performed by a fantastically funny cast. This show plays through May 18, after which they'll be bringing back their all-improv show It's Not the Heat It's the Stupidity this summer, featuring a rotating cast of local improvisors.

The cast of this show includes all familiar faces to BNW regulars, which means they're all experienced at this specific kind of funny, and work together very well. The night I attended, regular cast member Doug Neithercott was out so Director/co-creator/host Caleb McEwen filled in for him, and you'd never know he wasn't part of the regular cast, except for when he's playing "Doug." He's joined by Lauren Anderson (a 20-year BNW vet who can crack me up just by listing names of Minnesota State Parks), Denzel Belin, Isabella Dunsieth, and Katy McEwen. And yes, Katy and Caleb are married (for 30 years, as comes out in this love-themed show), which creates some fun unplanned humor when Caleb performs as Doug. They're accompanied as always by Jon Pumper on keys, creating a constant soundscape and occasionally becoming part of the show (including a very funny song about a sensitive pianist). Matthew Vichlach runs the lights, sound, and video, with some fun lighting effects and video gags.

Isabella Dunsieth, Lauren Anderson, Denzel Belin,
Doug Neithercott, and Katy McEwan (photo courtesy of BNW)
The show begins with a song, as per usual. Here they sing about love being "the worst thing that ever happened to me," with each performer getting a little bit personal in their relationship to love. The intro song is followed by about a dozen or so sketches, some funnier than others depending on personal taste. My favorites were the game show spoof, in which a couple from Chanhassen gives each other hilariously personal and revealing clues to guess a word or phrase; an appeal to math in finding love (with some fun audience interaction); a CMT show about a Chicks-like trio called The Maxon Chixons singing about being cheated on (but maybe we can just move on in a healthy way); an improvised mixtape of love songs based on audience prompts (although I do wish our audience was a bit more clever and not so obvious, but the cast makes the best of it); and an exploration of interracial dating in which two couples and their Chilis waitress speak in rhyme and unison, like one long rap scene that was beautifully executed. The show ends where it began - with a song, now about how "love was the best thing that ever happened to me." But don't think it's a happy ending, the lyrics were so bizarre that even though I love a good singalong, I just couldn't bring myself to sing that!

On Friday and Saturday nights, the hour-and-forty-five-minute show (including intermission in which to enjoy the specialty cocktails) is followed by an improv session. The performers change out of the BNW uniform (black pants and solid color tops) to their street clothes, signifying their loosening up (although the scripted show is pretty loose too, if more controlled). They run through a couple of improv games based on audience prompts, and show off a different comedy muscle than the ones utilized in the main show.

Whenever I see a BNW show, there are always several groups in the audience - family, or friends, or coworkers (that are cooler than mine). They offer discounts for groups of 8 or more (an even bigger discount for 20 or more), and with the table seating and fun concessions, this seems like a great option for a fun and unique group outing.

If you're in need of a laugh, head to the Dudley Riggs Theatre on Hennepin Avenue in downtown Minneapolis (now a part of Hennepin Theatre Trust) to experience the very funny and relatable Love and Other Things that Ruined My Life.