Brave New Workshop goes 'best of' in latest show

Run! It's the cast of the Brave New Workshop.
Run! It's the cast of the Brave New Workshop.
Photo courtesy Brave New Workshop
The greatest-hits package has long been a staple of the music industry and TV shows, and the Brave New Workshop isn't shy about getting into the game.

For the company's 55th anniversary, they're presenting Attack of the Best of the Brave New Workshop, where the creators have combed through years of sketches, songs, and situations and jammed them all together into a single show.

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On the laughs versus time-spent-in-the-theater chart, the show is a definite winner. The sketches are already battle tested, and the talented company is ready for whatever the material tosses at them.

This look back works remarkably well, in part because politics as usual (and society as usual) haven't changed all that much over the years. Change a few names, and you have a bit that's a fresh today as it was five, ten, or more years ago.

This becomes clear at the top of Act Two, with the "Ovarian Suite," which merges a song and a skit about men's obsession (and fear) of "ladies parts," into a brilliant bit of in-your-face theater, led by Taj Ruler's in-your-face singing. Ruler gets a first-act highlight as well, taking on the role of a dancing Michele Bachmann (and as Sarah Palin as well in a different sketch; sounds like typecasting).

The production features an interesting mix of performers, with mainstays Ruler, Lauren Anderson, and Andy Hilbrands joined by a returning Matt Erkel and the debut of Tom Reed, who has acted on a number of local stages and made a name for himself doing one-man Minnesota Fringe Festival parody musicals.

The performers are always game for whatever madness is before them. In one scene, they get to take on the roles of a young, rather inept Christian rock band hammering their way through a ditty apparently titled "Don't Have Sex," all while their drummer (Hilbrands) is showing signs of being possessed by the devil (he bought a belt buckle at Hot Topic, you see).

Then there is a long conversation between a pair of sweat pants (Anderson) and a pair of yoga pants (Ruler) about their different fortunes in recent years. Elsewhere, there is a song on a kids' show that goes horribly wrong.

There are a number of moments like that in the show, when the everyday goes beyond absurd into something darker, more dangerous, and much funnier (one singer insists on sharing the reality of a polar bear; the motivational speaker is the worst one in the history of the world, responsible for the likes of New Coke and the Zune).

Act One closes with "An Abridged History of Terror." That look back makes you wonder how we've all survived not just the last five decades, but also the thousands of years of human history. 


Attack of the Best of the Brave New Workshop
Through Nov. 2.
824 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis. 
For tickets and more information, call 612.332.6620 or visit online.
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Brave New Workshop Downtown Stage

824 Hennepin Ave.
Minneapolis, MN 55402


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