Brave New Workshop takes on 'Walmart'

ROHAN PRESTON | Updated 7/17/2014

Retailer turns to rap in BNW’s ‘Walmart.’

“The Wolf of Walmart”
Provided

How hip can a corporate behemoth be?

Hip enough to slay its enemies in a rap battle.

In “The Wolf of Walmart,” the Brave New Workshop’s latest sketch comedy revue, the Bentonville, Ark.-based company dismisses challengers to its position atop the retail sector with lethal lyrics.

But Drake, Nicki Minaj and even Iggy Azalea can rest easy. While imaginary Walmart corporate type Scott Jasperson (Bobby Gardner) can rope-a-dope Best Buy, Target and Amazon.com with his rap skills, Walmart will not be taking home any MTV Music Awards trophies soon.

“Walmart,” directed by Caleb McEwen and Katy McEwen, is built on a simple question: If a mammoth corporation can control our retail choices, why can’t said company determine the things that we find funny?

As an edgy opening number comes to a close, a suited-up Jasperson walks onstage and takes over the show. Taking a cue from sales practices, he rolls back the satire, suggesting script changes for sketches as well as ways to plug sales items such as pool noodles.

The production offers some of the cutting-edge send-ups we’ve come to expect from the workshop, which was founded 55 years ago by Dudley Riggs, and which last Friday had alumni such as Michael Anthony and Pat Proft in the audience. “Walmart” also has to take us inside the world of corporate control as embodied by Jasperson, who seems sweet enough but has a weird, haunting laugh.

It is a good show, but certainly not as frothily funny as its two predecessors, which dealt more with relationships.

“Walmart” sends up other types of behaviors. There’s the “Horse for Congress” sketch, in which a silent equine, on whom you can project anything, runs for office.

“Backwards in Heels” revolves around two women in an office, one a boss (Taj Ruler), the other a recent hire (Lauren Anderson). The hyper-feminism of Anderson’s character gets in the way of work, with stern consequences.

While “Clickbait” focuses on the news business, it offers interesting things about practices that drive traffic to sites.

The workshop even has a news segment, read by Matt Erkel.

In all, “Walmart,” which has musical direction by Peter Guertin, offers some clever and insightful sketches. If they are not as frothy as pieces from recent shows, that may be because the sketches land so close to home.

 

The Wolf of Walmart

When: 7:30 p.m. Thu.; 8 & 10 p.m. Fri.-Sat. Ends Nov. 1.

Where: Brave New Workshop, 824 Hennepin Av. S., Mpls.

Tickets: $18-$30. 612-332-6620 or www.bravenewworkshop.com.