Director Caleb McEwen introduced the Brave New Workshop’s latest sketch comedy show by invoking another downtown Minneapolis theater.
“I heard the Guthrie is celebrating 50 years,” he said dryly. “That’s cute.”
By that standard, the Workshop is cuter.
On Saturday, the venerable satirical company founded by Dudley Riggs opened its 55th-anniversary revue, “Attack of the Best of the Brave New Workshop.” Despite its unusually clumsy title — past shows have had such names as “The Viceman Cometh,” “Bomb Voyage” and “Spilling Me Softly” — “Attack” proves why the company has had such staying power.
The sketches, which date to the Nixon era, are wittily incisive. They tackle divisive issues with elucidating humor. Racial ignorance, homophobia and misogyny all come up for illustrative skewering in “Attack,” which is much more than a disquisition on touchy social issues.
“Attack” sends up the Vikings’ quest for a stadium, dating and Christian metal rockers.
The genius of comedy is that it makes its points, and perhaps more deeply, by getting us to laugh at the absurdity or truth of a situation.
For example, now that we have gay marriage in Minnesota, get ready for gay divorce. In one skit, Taj Ruler and Lauren Anderson play a long-married couple who are calling it quits. They hurl insults at each other and almost come to blows. Ah, marriage equality.
The two actors team up again in “Sadpants” a vignette in which shapeless sweatpants bemoan the fact that they are being displaced at malls and in closets by fashionable yoga pants. The catch? Very few of the yoga pants wearers actually do yoga.
Actor Andy Hilbrands satirizes racial phobias in “Mixed Race President,” a sketch about bringing change to the tone in the room.
“Attack” has mashups that include “An Abridged History of Terror,” which is drawn from many shows. There are cameos by Abe Lincoln and JFK, both dying.
Perhaps one of the most heartfelt pieces in “Attack” is a musical tribute to retiring Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann. The workshop company, which included Tom Reed and Matt Erkel, could have been speaking for all comedians when they sang that they are really going to miss her.