The Brave New Workshop cast is buffed up and ready to go.
Photo by Dani Werner
Sometimes, a bit in a show can penetrate right into your soul. For example, I knew exactly where Bobby Gardner was coming from in one scene during the Brave New Workshop's latest piece, Lance Armstrong's Steriod-Pumped Comedy Revue: A Cheater's Guide to Winning.
Two friends (Gardner and Andy Hilbrands) are binging on Oscar-nominated films, when they get to Les Miz. We see the pair as the film closes: Hilbrands unimpressed, Gardner in tears, singing along with the finale. I'll admit right here that's how I -- your cynical, Harold-Pinter-loving scribe -- reacted to the end of the film (and several of the stage productions I've seen over the years; I guess I'm a softy for epic, French-based musicals).
Great comedy comes not just with humor, but with a deeper, "Hey, we're all in this mess together" kind of vibe. The Brave New Workshop's latest has that throughout.
Using Armstrong as a springboard, the revue looks at all manners of cheating, from hunting for the right card to "win" at solitaire to lying on your match.com profile to get a better date. And if the bit takes them in a direction that doesn't involve cheating, well the actors just run headlong into whatever direction the comedy demands.
The current cast -- which also includes Lauren Anderson and Taj Ruler -- does terrific comedy, and the small number gives each of them plenty of chances to showcase their work. We have Gardner as the man of the title, wearing a far-too-revealing pair of biker shorts and carrying an attitude that is 100 parts arrogance for every part contrition.
Hilbrands shows great versatility as his parts range from President Obama (using an "Easy" button to launch drone strike after drone strike) to a sultry lady looking for a good time from a very scared Gardner.
Anderson has always starred with over-the-top and aggressive characters. This time, this includes a mother with horrible scientific advice for her daughter and the aforementioned solitaire champion. Ruler can play the straight woman -- a newsreader, a diner shocked by the endangered species on a restaurant's menu -- or take us into the madness just as well as everyone else.
Any show of this type will have its ups and downs. The first act-closing improv country song goes on far too long, while other bits fade pretty quickly into the background, but there is so much right about the show that it's easy to recommend for any lover of comedy, even if you don't know anything about Armstrong, or his too-tight shorts.
IF YOU GO:
Lance Armstrong's Steriod-Pumped Comedy Revue: A Cheater's Guide to Winning
Through June 29
Brave New Workshop Comedy Theatre
824 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis
For information, call 612.322.6620 or visit online.