Review: “Occupy Arden Hills: or, Brother can you Spare a Dome?”

Brave New Workshop’s latest comedy revue takes on the Occupy movement, but fails to bring anything new to the table.

Review:

Tony

What: Occupy Arden Hills: or, Brother can you Spare a Dome?

Where: Brave New Workshop

When: Feb. 11–April 14

Cost: $25 Wednesday-Thursday, $30 Friday-Saturday

Brave New Workshop posits itself as an equal opportunity offender, boasting “civilly disobedient satire” ripped straight from the headlines that skewers all sides of the issues. But in their latest comedy revue, “Occupy Arden Hills: or, Brother can you Spare a Dome?,” the Workshop feels less like a kid laughing from the back of the class and more like an old man banging on the ceiling with a broom.

“Occupy Arden Hills” sends up the Vikings and Zygi Wilf in particular, but only to equate them with the Occupy protestors; both are entitled and largely useless, refusing to contribute to a system that they believe owes them everything. The message is kept up throughout the show as we learn that retired tax attorneys and even a Tea Party member are among the Occupy protestors, most of whom thought they were in line for the new iPhone.

This argument is not new for Brave New Workshop, and it works well at the start of the show, when a chatty bus driver named Bentley dumps aimless 20-something Noah in Arden Hills, where he discovers how disorganized and inconsistent they are.

Bentley is played by Andy Hilbrands, the standout of “Occupy Arden Hills”’ five-person ensemble, and scores some of the best lines of the night, like calling Noah “Leave it to Eagan,” as well as flirting with (and seconds later, abandoning) horny old women.

The Occupy protestors are also given a funny introduction, milling about lazily and chanting, “What do we not want? A stadium! When do we not want it? Later!” These quick, clever sketches make up the best parts of “Occupy Arden Hills.”

Most of the show’s songs were fairly uninspired, but an exception came at the end of Act 1in the form of a “Little Mermaid“ parody as one of the protesters yearned to live in the world of the one percent. The act ended with a great sight gag as she posed with a garbage bag mermaid tail and toilet paper waves crashed over her.

Beyond these bright spots, “Occupy Arden Hills” was unable to expand its initial argument, falling into a holding pattern of increasingly cheap shots at the Occupy protestors that culminated in the show’s low point: “The Worst Generation.”

The song bemoaned the current generation’s ruin of everything that the Greatest Generation (members of which made up most of “Occupy Arden Hills”’**** audience opening night) had built. It ran the show’s central argument into the ground as Noah sang, in lazy rhyme, that this generation “is responsible for the death of our nation.”

The show’s final sketch offered a different perspective, arguing that at least the Worst Generation was doing something and that everyone should be united in their belief that something needs to be changed. But the tacked-on lesson felt disingenuous and is contrary to the ridicule aimed almost exclusively at the Occupy movement throughout the show.

No one expects a sketch comedy show to have a well considered political opinion, and the Occupy movement is certainly not immune to criticism — it invites it. But if Brave New Workshop is going to join in on what other satirists have been saying for six months, they at least need to bring something new to the table. “Occupy Arden Hills” falls flat because it can’t get past taking potshots at its easy target.

 

Rating: 2.5 stars out of 4