REVIEW: Edgy and inventive Brave New Workshoppers steamroll cherished traditions with comic gusto in “I Saw Daddy Marry Santa Claus.”
Could your Christmas be complete without the opportunity to sit on the lap of a culturally-appropriate Santa? Doesn’t Mrs. Claus have a first name? And what do the other reindeer really think about Rudolph? For the answers to these and other pointless questions, hurry yourself down to Brave New Workshop Theatre’s “I Saw Daddy Marry Santa Claus.”
Making mock of the holidays has long been an annual tradition at BNW, but this year’s offering, with fast paced transitions, mostly spot-on sketches and some brilliantly inventive improv, demonstrates more pizzazz than it’s shown in recent years.
Lauren Anderson is the veteran of the five person ensemble, providing her usual brand of bawdy humor and clever characterizations. She’s acidly assured as an angst-producing mother in the “12 Days of Christmas” song and creepily complaisant as a suburban homemaker with some very unique Christmas trees.
Taj Ruler is another standout, bringing a skill for comic understatement and dry humor. She perfectly channels Lorde’s pop hit “Royals” in a sullen, deadpan number about the reindeers’ disaffection with Rudolph’s celebrity status, and offers up a hilariously incoherent take as a nursing-home resident. One of the show’s most focused and funny sketches features her as a teacher shellshocked by the demands of a politically-correct school system.
Some of the best moments in “I Saw Daddy Marry Santa Claus” come from another relative newcomer, Andy Hilbrands. Whether he’s portraying Morgan Freeman popping in to narrate random people’s lives and read astonishingly un-titillating excerpts from “Fifty Shades of Grey,” or a retail worker assisting customers afflicted with OSD (Online Shopping Disorder), he’s a strong comic presence throughout.
As with any show of this type, not every sketch hits the mark. The first piece of the evening, with Anderson’s Mrs. Santa explaining her marriage of convenience to her closeted husband, lacks bite, while another that takes aim at the eavesdropping habits of the NSA feels perfunctory.
Most of the evening’s offerings are sharp and effective, however, and a few are downright brilliant. A sketch parodying late-night commercials is one such standout, with product spokesperson Matt Erkel soliciting goofy Christmas carol suggestions from the audience that Hilbrands and Tom Reed instantly turn into wildly comic musical renditions in a variety of styles. This is the kind of edgy and inventive improvisation that has always marked the best of BNW’s work, and it’s refreshing to see it employed to such good effect here.
This year’s faster, funnier show, enlivened by the return of the crowd-pleasing “12 Days of Christmas,” breathes new life into Brave New Workshop’s holiday standard and will make your seasonally-appropriate celebration all the merrier.
Lisa Brock writes about theater.