Lauren Anderson leads cast through a passel of new sketches with broad comedy and high volume.
Some day, when I am long gone, Lauren Anderson will perform in her final show at the Brave New Workshop. She then will take her place on the lists of storied alumni whose names trigger little smiles of fond recollection. Anderson might not ever write Hollywood movies or become a U.S. senator, but you will recall her work as being inspired.
This is sounding way too serious, and I don't think Anderson is going anywhere. I'm just saying, don't miss a chance to see her grind it out on the Workshop stage.
Anderson heads the cast of "Fifty Shades of White: A Minnesota XXXmas," which opened Friday night. While I'm in such a reflective mood, it is worth noting that this show marks the first anniversary of the company's move to downtown Minneapolis. I still miss the raw anarchy of that bandbox at 2605 Hennepin, but the creative staff has made adjustments, and the new space seems to work for audiences. So who am I to say?
The past few years, artistic director Caleb McEwen has put up a holiday show largely of greatest hits. This year, he and his cast have mounted new material with one notable exception. Anderson has brought back a classic piece she hasn't done for a few years. She portrays a boozy office worker who gives in to her uninhibited mood and hijacks the karaoke microphone at the company Christmas party. She lambastes a colleague who dumped her after a tryst with a full-throated howl of vengeful invective and pain. You will never hear "Frosty the Snowman" again without thinking of this moment.
Anderson also lights up the stage with a turn as Marley's Ghost -- riffing improv with an audience member -- and as a woman returning her "personal massager" at a Brookstone store.
Taj Ruler and Andy Hillbrands do their best work together in a spoof that mixes "Fifty Shades of Grey" with "T'was the Night Before Christmas." Santa has never looked so sexy.
Bobby Gardner goes gloriously over the top as a guy in love with a surprise gift from his girlfriend. Gardner has an uncanny ability to summon his inner 13-year-old girl.
The ensemble skewers the soulless gluttony of a sad-sack Christmas at Old Country Buffet; "Fifty Shades" shows up again as a gray-haired mother (Anderson) embarrasses her children with her randy chatter.
Some sketches go on way too long -- clever ideas milked to exhaustion -- and the whole show seems corked to maximum volume. Given the space and the acoustics, that makes sense on one level. But we miss the subtle, ridiculous moments that helped to define the Workshop's satire. Fortunately, Anderson's humor is big enough to fill the room. She's worth the trouble.
Graydon Royce • 612-673-7299
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