’Tis the season for gift giving, decorations, and holiday sales. Leave it to the iconoclasts of Bedlam Theatre, then, to herald its most anti-consumerist work just in time for Christmas. Beaverdance is the Marxist holiday fur-trade musical from Minnesota playwright and performer Corrie Zoll, and it’s a superb winter helping of smutty fun that’s so wrong it’s right.
Zoll, styling his title-defending beard in his role as the time-traveling political economist Karl Marx (AKA Santa Marx), pays a visit to the pre-statehood Minnesota to save the day from capitalist tyranny. With his political and economic knowledge of the future, Marx gets a crack at staging a Northwoods uprising to end all uprisings—this time disguised as Saint Nick, with a beaver populace as subjects for a worker collective.
Forget about conventions: Marx sets the tone early with a bare-all greeting: “Hello Capitalist tool! Hello oppressed aborigine!” Then there’s Mr. Blaine, the ornery bourgeois fur-trading boss, who spends much of the show in leather and lingerie he could’ve borrowed from Rocky Horror. His sprightly servant (and secret lover), Loring Park, joins in the absurdity after responding to an 18th-century Craigslist ad calling, in part, for an affinity to clubbing and leather. And Karl Marx is just as likely to be staging a beaver coup onstage as he is to be coining hilarious quips from side stage or hanging out at the bar having a beer.
To add to the fun, Beaverdance is highly participatory, the show being as much about the audience as it is for them; booing the bosses, hissing at the exploiters, and audience sing-alongs are all encouraged. It’s hard to imagine that songs about one-click shopping, value-addition, and Parisian prostitutes could be sing-alongs, but this show has pulled it off.
Bedlam’s come quite a way since its humble West Bank beginnings in 1993; it’s now situated in the heart of St. Paul’s thriving Lowertown scene. The dinner’s done right and an intermission snack suits the theme of the evening (sweet chocolate beaver balls, anyone?). You might not need a splash of political theater in your eggnog, but if you’re down for a bit of mild down-with-the-system comedy, you’re guaranteed to have a revolutionary night out.
Beaverdance plays at Bedlam Theatre through Dec. 21. Information here.