The Brave New Workshop has always been an equal-opportunity offender. That comes out clearly at the top of Act Two of the longstanding company's latest comedy revue, Fifty Shades of Gravy.
Moments after making fun of Fox News -- an easy target for any climate-change-fearing liberal -- they set their sights on a left-leaning sacred cow, NPR. Both bits offer spot-on satire. For Fox, it's all about speaking in a code so loaded with analogies as to be as incomprehensible as a report on a cricket match. For NPR, it's the tendency to assign highfalutin meaning to the most mundane of events. In this case, an inadvertent fart gets turned into a commentary on improved race relations in America.
As the title implies, E.L. James's novel-turned-movie is woven into a number of the scenes, so the show has the familiar mix of sex, politics, and everyday incidents. Some of it is delightfully wrong. Andy Hilbrands puts his Bill Cosby impression to work as he gives us samples of the disgraced comic's "books on tape" reading of Fifty Shades of Grey.
Each of the five actors in the company has their moments. Bobby Gardner is brilliant as an overbearing fitness instructor selling his latest workout, Psychosis. His unhinged character is the type that frightens you to work out so he won't hurt you.
Taj Ruler often plays the straight woman in the madcap action, but her growing outrage during the Fox News segment is palpable as she tries to keep up with more talking in code than the The Imitation Game.
Tom Reed's expansive singing voice and limber antics get put to the test at the end of Act One, when he serenades a lucky(?) lady from the audience with a Hozier parody titled "Take Me to Sex."
Lauren Anderson's intense work carries a lot of the show, from a girlfriend turned on when her black boyfriend gets pulled over in rural Wisconsin to a final rant where she admits that she has just been faking knowing anything about current events because watching the news (trigger warning!) makes her want to her kill herself.
As always, not all the sketches hit the mark and they sometimes go on too long, but Fifty Shades of Gravy is a bawdy, in-your-face blast of comedy.
IF YOU GO:
Fifty Shades of Gravy Through May 2 Brave New Workshop 824 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis $18-$36 For tickets and more information, call 612-332-6620 or visit online.