The Adams Conglomerate High School Drama Club
nytheatre.com review by Hope Cartelli
August 15, 2004
If you were between the ages of 11 and 17 in 1987 (actually, even if you weren't), WonderElastic Productions wants to help you remember those formative years for all the acid wash jeans and Keds sneakers they’re worth. Go on: relive the glory days of CBS after school specials and NBC One to Grow On Public Service Announcements, reread your volumes upon volumes of Sweet Valley High and be sure to check out The Adams Conglomerate High School Drama Club Presents: Tales of the 8th Grade!! You won’t regret taking this darkly comedic trip down memory lane.
Based on Untitled: A Bad Teen Novel, written by Tara Ariano when she was but 13 years of age, this spot-on parody of a typical high school drama club offering centers around Ariano’s sincere tale of the oh-so-melodramatic trials and tribulations of a group of girlfriends entering their high school years. The novel, explains the ACHS drama teacher (played to a funny yet all too terrifyingly real level by Laurel Felt), has inspired four of her talented young thespians (the dizzyingly talented group of Lauren Ludwig, Diane Mair, Haley Powell, and Martha Marion) to put on a show for their fellow students and attending parents. “This show is a window into your children’s souls,” the teacher exclaims before the girls unleash upon us their opening number about the first day of school, a wondrous mix of suburban dance school and watered-down ‘80s music video dance moves.
As the girls’ freshman adventures unfold, it becomes obvious what a perfect balance is struck between knowing winks at the subject matter and a die-hard love for it by the actors and adaptor/director Brad Akin. Diane is hot for her science teacher, Brandon is worried that she’s too ugly to find a boyfriend (relayed in the brilliant song “You!!”, which sounds like a classic Heart tune), Sonya really wants to smoke cigarettes despite her mother’s protests, and Nina is so wrapped up in school that she doesn’t hang out with her older brother anymore. But this is only the beginning as the story takes utterly soap operatic turns that I just can’t bring myself to divulge here. Suffice to say that the coda for each of these characters kicks the coda for the crew in the classic teen film American Graffiti’s ass.
Helped by a stellar supporting cast, including Jeremy Jones as the quintessential stiff high school actor who has to play the part of the dashing science teacher and Nick Thomas who, as Nina’s older brother, is more interested in the fact that he gets to hug his “sister” during their scenes than playing his part., …Tales of the 8th Grade deserves to live long after FringeNYC is over and the new school year has begun.