Fringe Day 7: 'Don't get connected to that Australian guy'

Fringe Day 7: 'Don't get connected to that Australian guy'
Photo courtesy Minnesota Fringe Festival

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Fringe Festival 2012: 165 shows packed into 15 days

I don't have any major connections or terribly fond memories of 1998. I was in my late 20s and working for a terrible newspaper in Green Bay, covering bar bands, touring shows, and, oddly enough, religion. I didn't have the time, or the inclination really, to connect with much of pop culture. Hell, I didn't even see Titanic until last year.

So a comedy about time traveling back to high school in the late 1990s wouldn't usually be a first on my list, but Class of '98 has been collecting good reviews and buzz at the 2012 Minnesota Fringe Festival, so I decided to give it a look Wednesday afternoon at Theatre in the Round.

I'm glad I did. It's a blazing show, racing along at a frenetic pace that threatens to completely derail at any moment. It's also pretty funny, and not all of the references rely on a working knowledge of 1998 pop culture to work (though it helps).

Created by Josh Carson, the play follows a pair of sad sacks in "modern" times who hitch onto a time-travel experiment (via an ad in Craigslist) and head back in time to high school, trying to right whatever wrongs had been done in the past that had trapped them their thirtysomething malaise.

Quickly getting jobs as high-school counselors, Mike and Lloyd ignore the advice of the 2012 mad scientist and begin to interfere with the lives of their younger selves. It goes so wrong that the entire fabric of the universe -- and the school dance -- are in danger.

The piece is pretty rough around the edges. The actors haven't mastered performing in the round, occasionally making punchlines hard to hear. The sheer speed of this (they are fitting as much plot as, say, Back to the Future or The Terminator into an hour) also can hinder our understanding of the piece.

That is overcome by the sheer energy and hard work of the cast, which features a mix of adult and younger performers. It turns out one of the actors was even working hurt Wednesday night. At the bows, it was revealed that Andy Kraft, who co-created the story with Carson and played the older, but not wiser Mike, performed with a cracked rib. Now, that's dedication to your art.

The jokes themselves do reach into the pop culture landscape of the past quarter century, but there are also reminders of just how cruel and hated high school was/is for so many teenagers, and how the only way to survive is with your true friends.

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Theatre In the Round

245 Cedar Ave.
Minneapolis, MN 55454-1054


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