The Brave New Workshop company laid bare most of the ills of first-world folks in the opening song of The Wolf of Walmart. Happy days are ruined within minutes of checking Facebook statuses, Twitter feeds, and news updates. The song's chorus? "Now, I'm pissed."
The Wolf of Walmart takes broadsides at the terrors of modern life, from soul-crushing big-box retailers to schools sponsored by McDonald's. The targets are generally pretty broad and mostly hit. The show, however, is most successful when the company employs more precision in its comic attack.
The world's largest retailer plays a role throughout the show, as evil marketing manager Scott Jasperson (Bobby Gardner) tries to mold the comedy after Walmart takes control of the venerable institution. It leads to a string of retail-related bits, from the prevalence of pool noodles (Walmart is having a sale, Jasperson explains) to an epic, two-part retail rap battle that pits the massive corporation against all comers, from local favorites Target to the mysterious scion of rural America, Pamida.
The internet and its deep reaching tendrils make several additional appearances. In one sketch that hits a bit close to home, representatives from the Buzzfeed/Upworthy side of modern journalism (Taj Ruler and Tom Reed, in perfect snotty youth personas) heckle a couple of New York Times veterans as they explain the real way to get traffic in the modern world -- and it has nothing to do with news.
Politics do get an airing, especially during a one-two punch in the first act. Both sketches are more about how exhausting modern politics are, rather than taking on any of the sides in the endless gridlock. In one, a silent horse running for congress turns out to be the best choice for one potential voter. While "The Midterm Election Song" finds a Minnesota voter (Lauren Anderson) at the ballot box more because of social obligation rather than a burning desire to put her individual stamp on one of the many judge's race.
While all of these are entertaining, it is a few second-act pieces that really spark the show. Back in the retail world, there's a lost soul (Matt Erkel) who has been trapped at his neighborhood Walmart for years. Another finds a young man living large on Seattle's increased minimum wage -- to the point where he can roll like a player at a neighborhood Chili's and proudly displays his Kia Soul for all to see.
My favorite? A bit of meta parody in the form of a TV show called Rumor. The conceit is that each short scene was mainly a reap of the previous short scene; all punctuated by the "rumor has it" line from Adele. I'm pretty sure there is a connection to modern-day TV shows. No matter, it's funny without the context.
IF YOU GO:
The Wolf of Walmart Through November 1 Brave New Workshop 824 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis $18-$30 For tickets and more information, call 612.332.6620 or visit online.