STUCK IN THE MANGER WITH YOU; OR CAROL ON, MY WAYWARD SON at the Brave New Workshop through January 26 612.332.6620
Well, it's that time of year again, when people of all sorts of persuasions gather together, overindulge, exchange consumer goods, and sit in profound discomfort alongside those whom fate decided to make their relations. Lest one start feeling too warm and fuzzy, the Brave New Workshop's holiday show mixes new stuff with the best of the old. The theme here is the undercurrent of absurdity and desperation that drives the end-of-the-year train, hit first with a skit involving Joe Bozic as a frantic UPS delivery guy charged with making a harrowing run (Mike Fotis, as Bozic's co-worker, says he would make the delivery himself but hasn't left the warehouse in years because of his crippling agoraphobia). The creepiness gets ratcheted up in a skit about an increasingly lascivious holiday party, in which Ellie Hino is essentially tongued, groped, and dry-humped by various male guests. Hino proceeds to regress into warped childhood in a subsequent skit that involves a holiday gift forged from feminine hygiene products (she lets loose throughout, later unveiling a crazed persona fixated on an M. Night Shyamalan advent calendar). Of course, it's the family material that gets the most knowing laughs from the audience, in the form of "Angry Fathers/Shrieking Mothers" spoofs on "The 12 Days of Christmas." Mom and Dad are fondly remembered as red with rage, desperately sobbing, or outright soused (Fotis, in a recurring line about suspecting his son is gay, finally bleats out, "I'm not going to have to march in any parades, am I?"). It's all held together with the right levels of manic glee, and Lauren Anderson's drunken-karaoke "Frosty" somehow remains insanely hilarious upon repeated viewings (at least three, in my case). If there's anything to complain about here, it's a feeling that the company isn't breaking new ground, but this holiday show is obviously intended as a crowd pleaser, and as such it goes down easy with a hint of anarchic malice. As for Fotis's holiday sex calendar, projected on big screens above his smiling face in the early going, the less said the better.