“Are dreams under the jurisdiction of HR?” asks comic actor Denzel Belin in the Brave New Workshop’s latest comedy revue.
The question is rhetorical, of course. It’s part of the comic sketch “Co-worker Nocturne,” one of 14 bits in the workshop’s latest show. With a series of dreamed-of interoffice hookups, the sequence enthusiastically smashes all borders of propriety, expertly mining highly inappropriate situations for laughs.
“Love and Other Social Diseases,” which opened over the weekend, is the 300th main-stage show by the troupe founded by Dudley Riggs 61 years ago. It also is a departure from the bracing political humor for which the comedy outfit is best known.
It’s not that this two-act show stays away from politics. It includes pointedly funny references to Edina, Woodbury and Olive Garden that reminded this theatergoer of the troupe’s regular political works.
But by sending up matters of the heart, the workshop helps us escape all the headlines about America’s face-planting political life. Instead the company serves up risible diversions by a five-member cast and pianist Jon Pumper, whose music is integral to the comedy.
The show’s deadpan opening, a musical number called “We Got the Love,” uses the acting ensemble to talk about the feeling of being smitten. Actor Tom Reed starts it off, coming in bright-eyed and full of glee. He’s in love, he tells his friend played by Ryan Nelson. The only thing is that he now has a burning sensation when he goes to the bathroom.
A similar thing happens to Lauren Anderson’s character, who met a man with whom she clicked because they both love “Star Wars.” But before long, he leaves her with warts and sores.
“That’s not love,” Nelson’s character tells her, “that’s syphilis.”
Directed by Caleb McEwen, a master of comic timing who also shapes the show’s arc, “Love” is written by the performers, including Heather Meyer and the blithely talented Anderson and Reed. They reference everything from pop culture and dating apps to corporate lingo and home schooling.
There’s the “Resignation Letter,” in which one half of a couple gives a two-week notice for breaking up. Hey, the corporate practice of right-sizing can apply to the domestic sphere, right?
There’s the “Divorce Party,” where an embittered ex-couple try applying pre-marriage rituals post-marriage. It’s wry and bitter and very funny.
And then there’s “The Same Pen,” a sketch about two people with very strong connections who uncannily echo each other. Turns out, their far-out chemistry is apt because, well, they’re not quite human.
At the opening of “Love,” director McEwen said that the workshop is a great place to take a date because a sense of humor is one way to tell if couples will be compatible.
But you don’t need a date or even company to take in the workshop’s latest show, running through the spring. With this gung-ho cast, “Love” offers a valentine of laughs.