At Minneapolis’ Brave New Workshop, the Donald has displaced the Grinch as our holiday grouch.
“The Trump Who Stole Christmas,” BNW’s latest satirical revue, opened a week after presidential candidate Donald Trump hosted “Saturday Night Live.” The NBC episode, generally panned by critics, could have used some help from the Minneapolis troupe.
Playfully directed by Caleb McEwen and written by its ensemble members, “Trump” offers a hefty helping of wry, cutting wit. Ryan Nelson plays the title character with pursed lips, smarmy pomposity and zero self-reflection.
The Trump that pops up throughout the Workshop’s show is a cartoon character who, to quote the opening narration, “rumbled and grumbled, a modern-day Scrooge, his vision was narrow but his ego was huge. … His eyes were blood-red and he looked like a ferret had died on his head.”
He sings: “I am awesome!” His response to being called on issues of race and gender? Bring it on.
“Wives are like iPhones,” he says in one monologue, “you have to keep upgrading or people think you’re a loser.”
The Workshop famously comes up with titles to its shows before it finishes its sketches. Trump may be the headliner of its latest revue, but the troupe sends up broader themes that emerge as people gather and reflect at the holidays.
In one sketch, “Duck,” two single people (Bobby Gardner and Lauren Anderson) try to find companionship. But Anderson’s character has “shape-lexia,” a condition in which she melds words like asparagus and spherical, and leads her to confuse Christmas trees with a shape (tree triangle). At Saturday night’s performance, Gardner and Anderson could barely get through the dialogue without cracking each other — and us — up.
The stress of family is sent up in the latest diet fad (“The Paleo Tango”), in which Gardner plays an over-righteous person come to save his family from eating poison.
In one of the funniest sketches, Time Life presents famous songs of the ’60s reimagined with Christmas themes. With Peter Guertin on keyboard, the ensemble including fearless Taj Ruler and versatile Tom Reed murders songs by the likes of the Everly Brothers, the Beatles (“Hey, Christmas”) and the Four Seasons (“O, what a night, late December back in zero B.C.”).
And then there’s the holiday party, reimagined as an ad from a pharmaceutical company peddling a new drug that combines Oxycontin, morphine, Vicodin and PCP. The tagline: “With Absentia, you won’t care the kids are fighting because you won’t remember that you have kids.”
On that note, the hosts at Workshop shows often encourage people to imbibe. “The more you drink, the funnier the show,” they say. But you could be abstemious and still have a good laugh at “Trump.”