Review by Shoshana Roberts
Off Broadway, New Play
Theater Lab, 357 West 36th Street, 3rd Floor NYC
Runs through 5 March.16
BOTTOM LINE: A hilarious aerobics class happening in real time as a small town woman with a foul mouth tries to come to terms with the end of her dying Jazzercise class.
Currently Amy Poehler and Tiny Fey are the queens of the comedy world, but Megan Hill and Amy Staats are going to give them a run for their money. With Hill's insanely clever writing and their genius comedic timing, The Last Class: A Jazzercize Play is a production that should run for years to come. It is unique and ridiculously funny. It is a real aerobics class happening in real time, which is one of the most wonderful things about the performance. Hill and Staats possess the difficult ability to simultaneously have the timing of the show totally prepared in every single moment, aligned with the music, and at the same time give off the appearance of a completely improvised and believable real life situation.
Chikatawnee Valley Community Center has Kelsea Wiggan (Megan Hill) as its Jazzercize instructor. After growing up participating in the program with her mom and grammy, she decided to buy into the franchise herself. Besides some shifts at the diner, she has made a living out of it, based on the fact that she was always average at everything in life, with her college degree in general studies. Teaching aerobics is something Kelsea excels at though, with her class outlasting fads like Tae Bo and Sweating to the Oldies.
But things are changing now. Kelsea's lifetime rival has been hired by the board to become the new athletic director at the community center and while Kelsea has been out of commission for three weeks due to a knee injury, Jazzercise has new been canceled and replaced by Zumba. (Or as Kelsea calls it, “Jazzercize's sluttly little sister.”) So this performance is the very last class. Kelsea is conducting the class with help from her long time assistant MJ (Amy Staats), who has been too shy to become an instructor herself.
Throughout the class, which I remind you is happening in real time with two audience members, we come to learn all about Kelsea's frustrations in life and her tendency to curse like a sailor. Perhaps a petition will help save the class? Or maybe because of Kelsea's lack of sanity and her knee injury it's already too late?
I cannot help but mention how much preparation and hard work must have occurred to get the timing of this show correct. I would also just love to take an aerobics class from Megan Hill. Her energy cannot be contained and if she ever wants a side job, I know this would be perfect. She even demonstrates in her writing that she knows the cheesy lingo that group fitness instructors use. Hill's performance is spectacular. When explaining dance moves, Kelsea twists her language from generic to morbid. So, as MJ is telling the class to “collect the leaves,” Kelsea is “dragg[ing] the corpse.” The humor in this show is out of this world; laughing as hard as I did gave me quite a workout.
(The Last Class: A Jazzercize Play plays at Theater Lab, 357 West 36th Street, 3rd floor, through March 5, 2016. The running time is 50 minutes with no intermission. Performances are Wednesdays at 8; Thursdays at 8; Fridays at 8; and Saturdays 8. Tickets are $18 and are available at web.ovationtix.com/trs/pr/955006. For more information visit www.dodotheater.com.)
The Last Class: A Jazzercize Play is by Megan Hill. Directed by Margot Bordelon. Choreography is by Sarita Lou. Lighting Design is by Megan Lang. Sound Design is by Palmer Hefferan. Stage Manager is Alex Mark.
The cast is Megan Hill and Amy Staats.
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