Hear No Evil, Casino Evil: Spotlight: What Happens in Bloomington Stays in Bloomington

Brave New Workshop gambles on an “Instant Theater” satire of Minnesota casinos

Courtesy of Brave New Workshop Comedy Theatre

This show will turn out different every night, since about 80 percent of its content is composed of improvisation based on director Caleb McEwen's quizzing the audience for free-associational nuggets before it starts. Brave New Workshop is billing the production as a return to the Dudley Riggs "Instant Theatre" concept of the '60s, and an alternative to more recent sketch-based offerings. During the early performance last Saturday night, things were a bit bogged down by the ostensible subject matter (Casino gambling? Was someone else already doing a show about the state's bond rating?), and the scripted material was among the weakest. When the cast was simply letting fly, though, they were a pleasure, scoring laughs more often than not. Katy McEwen spent much of the proceedings portraying a time-traveling astronaut (after drawing a random assignment from a deck of cards), a nice foil to Joe Bozic's office-temp Lothario, exuding louche nerdiness while putting the moves on an invisible copy machine. City Pages eventually came in for a ripping--apparently our editorial staff is made up of paranoid neurotics (yeah, that's just what they want you to think). Improv being what it is, there were times when the wheels came off: a faux town-hall meeting at the end of Act I, for instance, inflicted a fair amount of pain. In the second act things built quickly to a maniacal intensity, and it was refreshing fun to watch the cast pull an ending out of their collective asses. The ensemble is quick-witted with generally sharp comic instincts, and distinguishes itself with a selflessness in which getting the audience to laugh is the ultimate goal. Which seems obvious, but is in sharp contrast to TV's Whose Line Is It Anyway?, the execrable Drew Carey vehicle in which a bunch of smug hacks play to each other while pretending to be entertaining an audience. And I'm not just saying that to be nice after witnessing Caleb McEwen's live demonstration that he could plant a kitchen knife in my sternum from 10 paces, should he decide to. No, that has nothing to do with it at all.

 
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