Ah, work. That place, as it is said in Brave New Workshop’s “The Working Dead,” where you spend all of your time so that “dying doesn’t seem so bad.”
The company’s latest revue unleashes the terrors of the modern workplace. Bad coffee. Jargon-packed meetings. Office politics. Bad coffee. Meaningless memos. Overbearing bosses. Bad coffee. (Maybe I’m projecting here.)
It’s a decidedly silly exercise that still manages to pack in lots of laughs, even if you don’t know your NDAs from your ROIs.
Unlike the Workshop’s effort last year, “Mad Vax: Beyond Measledome,” you don’t need to know anything about “The Walking Dead,” AMC’s popular zombie series, to enjoy the show. That is, apart from brief scenes in which a guy in a sheriff’s hat leads a ragtag group of survivors trying to avoid co-workers who have come to the office with the flu in order to avoid burning their paid-time-off.
Considering that we are several years past the end of “The Office,” workplace comedies need to be sharp. Several sketches do that perfectly. Marketing and sales teams joust for who gets to use a conference room in a “West Side Story”-style battle, complete with Jerome Robbins-inspired choreography.
Smoking — outside the office — gets an epic, N.W.A-style rap. On one side are the nicotine addicts wishing they didn’t have to go into the cold for their fix. On the other is office scold Lauren Anderson, who is tired of their whining and their stinky clothes. It ends up being a vulgar but oh-so-funny way to end the first act.
A couple of sketches drag, either by making cheap jokes at the expense of IT (very 2006 of them), or by having an angry older white dude (an otherwise very good Ryan Nelson) insult each of his diverse co-workers. Most of the humor has long been drained from that situation.
If you want a sociopolitical discussion on race relations in the modern workspace or a discussion of the ever-present glass ceiling, this isn’t the show for you. However, if you want to laugh at how gross office ’fridges are and the simple thrills of Casual Friday, then set your Outlook for a meeting with Brave New Workshop.
Ed Huyck is a Minneapolis writer.