Reviewed by Roxanne Sadovsky and David Erickson
Goy David: BNW's latest review takes a surgical strike approach in their choice of topic, at least for the first half of the show. Rather than presenting a pastiche of skits banging various notes of a general theme, the BNWs attack the slowly receding waters of the Katrina catastrophe/bureaucratic circus/blame-fest head-on, marching the audience through a chronology of events intertwined with some running gags and man-in-the-street type characters to round out the program, at one point going local to drop a few bunker busters on the local pundits who KARE. The second half goes a bit off focus in an attempt to widen the circle of satirization, taking on Pakistan (the earthquake), and Avian Flu (and the many ways you can't catch it)
The pacing is crisp, the material is tight, the performances are sustained at a level of energy and general insanity that BNW does particularly well (somehow I've never seen a show where anyone was hoarse from all the shouting. They must do vocal warm-ups.).
The only issue I would take with this densely packed cluster bomb of hilarity is that they're taking on a topic where they have to EDUCATE THE AUDIENCE. Now, mind you they probably do this better than any comedy company has a right to, and certainly, any responsible voter (all 60% of us) should have a grasp of the burning (or drowning) political issues of the day, but nevertheless, when scaling a subject with the ginormity of a 27 foot swell popping a levy like a cheap belt on the winner of a pie-eating contest, it's crucial that EVERYONE UNDERSTANDS WHAT YOU'RE TALKING ABOUT. But it's okay- at the rate the laughs come along in Saturday Night F.E.M.A...., BNW makes learning about politics sadly, ironically, funny. And I must admit to having been a little (let's say a lot) confused about what Chertoff's job is. Well, now I'm clear on that. And now Cheney had to go and shoot a lawyer. Just thought I'd mention that. It's a political fact. Go see the show. Get some learnin' in that fool head o' yours. And don't forget to vote.
Rox: To follow in the footsteps of Goy-David's introduction/review, I'll throw my predictable aches and accolades into the mix... For starters, I know I don't need to reiterate how talented Mike Fotis (the most manic among the cast quartet), is, or that he used to be MY improv teacher at BNW's BNI (Brave New Institute) and is only getting better. The rest of the gang-Lauren Anderson, Joe Bozic, and Katy McEwen-regulars to BNW's main-stage, are outstanding as usual. And, as usual, the highlight of the show comes for me toward the end of the first act in the form of a song-though I'll be damned if I can remember what they were mocking this time as they sashayed across the stage and linked canes in their mock-musical style. (As I've said before, BNW needs an entire musical show; heck, they've probably already done one, but they need another one. In my opinion, nothing says satire better than a stage full of grown adults who-for the most part-can neither sing nor dance, yet take themselves as seriously as the folks making top dollar on Broadway, which is always the show stopper for me.)
While I have no choice other than to accept my rather rapid decline in short term memory, I think the reason there is so much of this show I cannot recall has more to do with the content of the show than my brain. As Goy David said, there was a lot to take in, a lot to recall, and for some of us, a lot to learn. Lastly, the fact that I don't watch television is something that often excludes me from following many pop cultural, celebrity and media references and critique, though I do manage to stay on top of the news in other ways (fancy that!). The point is, though it was funny, a lot of the inside personalities went over my head. Ultimately, this show didn't stand out to me as much as many others, but that could have everything to do with my lack of interest in the topic (I suppose I am just as guilty as the big bad government of not getting involved with Katrina. Sure, I lamented, I sighed at cocktail parties and helplessly swished my wine around a bottomless glass... I sent "good energy" toward New Orleans during yoga class... but that's about as far as my participation went.) Personally, I prefer satire that strikes its victims right here at home (which made me appreciate the references in several skits to Minnesota-centric natives who think every single worldly disaster will inevitably affect the Twin Cities). Does this make me apathetic? Perhaps. It's also possible that this is me still rebelling against four years of hypocrisy at the Evergreen State College (not an attack on Evergreen, but on many of the angry and sheltered barely-out-of-high-school youth that it housed in the early 90s, who enjoyed "protesting" if it meant a party was in tow). I also think that when satire is too broad (the government, the ubiquitous "they", the president, etc) it becomes difficult to actually motivate anyone to take action. In other words-and I know I have said this before-how can anyone expect one person or one party or one government to behave nicely, fairly, or justly, when the great big war "out there" has everything to do with lack of love, not lack of money. If love was not so dire or scarce, everyone, including me, would made their way south come hell or...yeah. But don't get me started on this "brain book" debate. Just ask the pros like Stephen Covey.
In closing ... I understand that BNW is in the business of satire and that the U.S. government takes a majority of that egg on its face. I also think that BNW is the best house in town...hands down. I'm just saying that they can't all be gems. If I loved them all, it wouldn't be fair anyway. Now, I'm exhausted. Can someone else talk about why they thought this show was so great?