Hollywood: the horror, the horror

The Brave New Workshop rips its material straight from the TomKat tabloids with equal parts derision and delectation

by Sara Nicole Miller

Like any E! Online hoodrat will tell you, rancid celebrity sausage gets ground up and spewed out of the Hollywood rumor mill on a second-by-second basis.

“Rise of the Celebretards: A-crotch-alypse Now”

WHEN: Fridays at 8 p.m. and Saturdays at 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. through August 11
WHERE: The Brave New Workshop, 2605 Hennepin Ave. S., Minneapolis
TICKETS: $20 to $24

As a result, our culture has become so starstruck it’s almost as though we’re born with the fables of Hollywood life already freebased into our veins. We crave it like Fruity Pebbles and foot massages. That’s not to say, however, that it doesn’t often turn us into gloomy Prozac robots or create a quirky scenario for ironic satirical comedy, because it can and often does.

In the Brave New Workshop’s 259th comedy revue, five actors attempt to parody the already overparodied: Hollywood’s ongoing obsession with itself. The comedic troupe relies heavily on physical comedy and flashy, sound and light theatrics to create a moving, breathing version of sensationalism and shrink-wrapped, star-studded folly.

The performance boasts a sampling of sketches, trailing off comedic slapstick and bungled, intermingling parody, illuminating the magazine-rack fooey of the day while slanging out punch lines and crotch-shots like a two-bit hustler. All the usual suspects – from Scientology to Tomkat – are whipped out and smacked around a bit, just for kicks.

The actors take on some other beaten-to-death topics, too: the toxicology results of Anna Nicole Smith’s autopsy, socialites and drug addiction and Nicole Richie’s (anti)carnivorous head to name a few. The actors slither in and out of roles – meandering about onstage, throwing blonde wigs and burqas (whatever is called for) over their mugs when the lights dim, and appear jovially from a movable wall in the wings, only to vanish and reappear as a Ryan Seacrest sapling or B-list celebri-tot. This schizoid, haphazard nature of on-scene movement and interactive farce fares well with a subject matter composed almost entirely of pop-culture kidney shots. The rhythm keeps things fresh and gut-bustingly funny.

The genius of the production comes from its ability to use Hollywood’s most alluring rhetorical tools – even in the backdrop of a beer-and-popcorn cabaret space – to expose the beastly antics of the biz. Onstage, the audio melodrama of movie trailers and classical Hollywood plot twists psychologically cradles the lighthearted physical comedy. The lavish lighting (blue for the stalker scene, white-light and godly for the George Clooney-meets-jihadist finale) indulges an ongoing stream of distorted narration satires, much to the merriment of the audience.

In one scene, a provocative chunk of programming on a fake “Animal Planet” details the elusive and hideously kinky mating rituals of the Rock Star and Supermodel species, who are, after all, made for each other because they “both vomit, but for completely different reasons.” In another, Angelina Jolie the “Womb Raider” (Lauren Anderson) attempts to kidnap and adopt an American child, using the projectile power of her pursed lips to make exclamations.

In spite of the more leery skits (when three friends go “gay for Clooney,” gnarly déjà-vu from the frenzied “ER” era comes to mind), the two shining gems of the show are the skits involving The Pussycat Dolls and Nicole Richie. During a Pussycat Dolls competitive reality show, the group of mismatched wannabes make sullied innuendos about their, er, confidence and stuff. Then, when Nicole Richie arrives for her “Maxim” spread, her womanly figure is portrayed by none other than a broomstick marionette and the disembodied head of actor Katy McEwen.

The quintet of actors is a hilarious bunch, as is, to a certain extent, the array of famous folks they poke fun at. But in a crass attempt to defang and infantilize the mind-mashing apparatus that is Hollywood, BNW’s “Rise of the Celebretards” almost seems to bask in its ridiculed air of raunchy star culture-as-heterotopia. After all, many would say that it’s unpatriotic to let Hollywood get off that easy. And it almost always does, especially in comedy routines.

But if only for a fleeting moment, “The Rise of the Celebretards” does give us something to chew on: a redemptive, lighthearted angle with which to view all the baggage that comes along with Hollywood’s influence – eating disorders and fascist beauty standards aside. Yes, it’s sad that we care more about Paris Hilton’s jail sentence than we do about Sudanese refugees. But at the end of the day, it’s so sad, it’s almost funny.