Theater Spotlight: The Brave New Workshop Saves the Planet; or Yes We Can, but Do We Have To?

Ellie Hino
courtesy of Brave New Workshop

The best news these days seems to be that the world may have abandoned its breakneck freefall into the abyss, in favor of a more leisurely slide downward. Picking which calamitous trends to lampoon for the Brave New Workshop's latest satiric salvo meant choosing from an embarrassment of riches. "In the brainstorming process that came first, it was exhausting for me personally this time around, with all the depressing things we were talking about," said cast member Ellie Hino last week. "From North Korea to Susan Boyle, we spent lots of time looking at the news. But we kept coming back to Kim Jong Il, and Iran. And, obviously, Jon and Kate." The resultant show does indeed cover a wide spectrum of the world's ills, from the spine-tingling to the simply icky. Hino does a lot of heavy lifting, including a quick-change duality between Kate Gosselin and cinematic sexpot Megan Fox. "I'm not known for my impressions or anything like that," Hino says. "I just started doing those characters made up. I never watched Jon & Kate Plus 8, I just came up with them on my own as I imagined them. I watched interviews on YouTube and was shocked by my precision. Wow—I pretty much had them down." The reason is because Hino nails the spirit behind the show's considerable comedic impact: a collective hands-in-the-air response of dismay and helplessness in the face of a vivid and seemingly ineluctable global decline. That, and it's the result of a crack team of five performers who mesh so seamlessly as to make the thing seem effortless. "I've always said that audiences are like dogs," said director Caleb McEwen. "They smell fear. You start getting laughs when you stop caring about whether you will." McEwen is a student of his art form and seems only momentarily flummoxed when trying to decide whether Brechtian alienation or pro wrestling serves as the best metaphor for the complex machinations of sketch comedy. Finally, about this latest effort, he agrees that it is very good. "It's what we came up with," he added with a self-deprecating chuckle. "It'll have to do." $24-$27. 8 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays, 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. Saturdays; Brave New Workshop, 2605 Hennepin Ave. S., Minneapolis; 612.332.6620. Through October 31

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