Authors: Alison Kaitcer & Cameron Fairchild
Some people go their whole lives without jazzercising even once. Kelsea Wiggan is the exact opposite of those people. The Last Class, a 65-minute burst of manic and tragi-comic technical excellence, is her story, detailing the jazzercise instructor’s final class before her program is shut down at the Chikatawnee Valley Community Center. The Last Classshowcases Kelsea’s real-time breakdown to hilarious and harrowing effect, making it one of the liveliest live shows in Seattle—and one of the more entertaining workout classes you’ll attend this season.
The Last Class refuses easy characterization, both in the way its two leads play off of each other in uncomfortable synchronization and at the way it blends comedy and drama. Scored throughout by the sort of upbeat pop hits you’d expect from a medium-intensity workout class and structured as a typical jazzercise class that slowly breaks down, the show’s masterfully handled tonal dissonances are worked into its craft from the start. As a technical feat, The Last Class separates itself from other plays by the fact that its characters are in constant motion, sweating and moving for the entirety of the jazzercise lesson. In this heightened atmosphere, dark truths, comic anecdotes, and confessions naturally spill out, helped along by an intelligent script that naturally reveals the intricacies of Kelsea’s deteriorating state of mind, her relationship with her co-lead, and the fleeting nature of her success.
Of course, none of the show would work without the two tremendous performances at its center. Megan Hill, who also wrote the script, stars as Kelsea, and lends the high-strung jazzercise instructor an almost uncontrollable energy masking a vulnerable core. Kelsea, as performed by Hill, is coming apart at the seams, and her outspoken nature becomes increasingly angrier and frequently offensive to her coworker. It would be difficult to sympathize with Kelsea if it weren’t for Hill’s commanding performance, which plays vulnerability and hostility simultaneously with the utmost care. Accompanying Kelsea is her co-lead, the shy, upbeat MJ Fray, played by Amy Staats. Staats, an accomplished New York actress, is a perfect foil to Hill, and the two play off each other hilariously, as MJ politely rebuffs Kelsea’s attempts to rope her into her breakdown. Staats radiates bruised empathy, trying her best to help Kelsea without knowing how to fully call out her increasingly erratic behavior. Staats makes it clear the extent to which Kelsea does not realize the negative effect her words and actions have on the people around her through her excellent, reactive performance.
Although The Last Classis short, it is well worth the cost of admission because it is such a direct, authentic, and fully-explored idea, melding its structure to its performances and its writing in a way that is technically inventive, dramatically intense, and always funny. The LastClass is pure electricity, and a revelatory theatergoing experience.
The Last Class is now playing at the ACT Theatre through April 29th.
ALISON KAITCER | ok but for real, zumba is the worst | KXSU Arts Reporter
CAMERON FAIRCHILD| Vicarious Exercise Participant | KXSU Arts Reporter