Theater Review - Class at Dad's Garage examines the student body politic

Class, a high school election comedy currently on the ballot at Dad's Garage Theatre's Top Shelf, examines a hotly contested political dynamic torn from the proverbial headlines. Class playwright Lauren Gunderson pits Mallory (Alison Hastings), an ambitious blonde with an endless list of extracurricular activities, against Collin (Theroun Patterson), a less experienced African-American who primarily trades on his personal charisma.

Some of Class' funniest moments play off the 2008 election, particularly the Democratic primary. Collin overtly imitates Barack Obama's poster design and "Yes, We Can" slogan, but Mallory stops herself from calling him on it, for fear of using "the race card." She fires back by questioning Collin's African-American authenticity and points out that behind his "thug life" posturing, he's a privileged Decatur teenager and secret chess champion.

Class presents Mallory's and Collin's final debate before the student body (i.e., the audience), amusingly utilizing A.V. club technology to show the candidates' campaign videos. Hastings and Patterson both prove deft at carrying their characters to repugnant extremes, then showing the teenagers' sympathetic sides. Before curtain time, they even campaign with the audience, handing out stickers and attempting to rock the vote. The audience actually decides each night's outcome and casts ballots during a musical interlude performed by two members of the Bee Valley Christian High School band – an inspired bit of shtick that nearly steals the show.

The script pushes a little too hard for laughs at times, like the way the school principal's intercom interruptions lapse into religious caricature (although the use of the "swear gong" makes a funny running joke). Class more effectively spoofs the values and contortions of painfully idealistic teenagers, as expressed by Mallory's invocation of 9/11 in a big, self-aggrandizing song. Overall, Class emerges as a viable comedic candidate, although, when it comes to portraying high school politics, Reese Witherspoon's Election might be president for life.

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