Spilling Me Softly; or Once the Gulf Goes Black, It Never Comes Back

The latest show by the Brave New Workshop is very, very funny—for my money, among the best they've produced in the last couple of years. The key here isn't the topical material, which ranges from the inevitable googly-eyed Michele Bachmann (Ellie Hino) to Tiger Woods's libido to our upcoming libido-inhibiting governor's race. What makes this show so engaging is its precisely goofy structure, as well as a self-reflective, giddy commentary on topical sketch comedy itself—reflecting both the frustrations of the form and the continuous incoherence of our tribalized national culture. The first act essentially takes a series of sketches, cuts them into fragments, and delivers them rapid-fire (the opposite of driving a joke into the ground). Some of the material here is welcome in its willingness to work a bit closer to the edge of offense than we're used to (affixing a Fleshlight to the end of Tiger's driver, for example), and on opening night there were the sorts of groans coming from the audience that indicated a nerve had been deftly struck. Weaving through all of this is a nicely offensive fiction: Cast member Josh Eakright has become too expensive to maintain and has been replaced by an illegal immigrant named El Guapo (Eakright in poncho and 'stache), who Mike Fotis picked up in a Home Depot parking lot. This is funny enough in the first act, when El Guapo is called on to recite Eakright's lines in a cheesy accent, but crosses into surrealistic territory in the second act. It's not giving too much away to reveal that the cast becomes concerned that Eakright has become lost in the El Guapo character, and that each subsequent sketch becomes a mission to retrieve his damaged, shattered mind from the deleterious effects of performing sketch comedy for a living. Along the way there's a news report done in "Spanish 101" (La biblioteca es en fuego! Dios mio!), and a final closing sentiment in which everyone sobers up and says something sensible (before undermining it the next moment). This is the current BNW crew at its finest. $25-$29. 8 p.m. Thu.-Fri., 7 and 10 p.m. Sat.; Brave New Workshop, 2605 Hennepin Ave. South, Minneapolis; 612. 332.6620. Through October 30

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