Director Bret Fetzer isn't sure how to describe his show c. 1993. In his program notes, he says it's "not a play or a story," briefly settles on the word "performance," then waffles back to the vague safety of calling it a "discursive essay or a collage." When even the director can't explain what the audience is about to see, at least they know they're in for an interesting night.
In his defense, I sat through the thing and I'm still not sure what it is; it's part musical, part wrestling match, and part collection of skits and monologues. The entire 15-person cast is onstage for most of the run time, the set and props are fairly minimal, and the cast's earnest devotion to the material is the only fuel that keeps propelling the show from beginning to end.
That devotion comes from ownership: The ensemble "created" the show by combining texts from around the year 1993 into a series of vignettes. The lyrics of Liz Phair's horny ballad "Flower" are sung over a mostly silent reenactment of the movie Sleepless in Seattle; Lorena and John Bobbitt are cast as WWF wrestlers while announcers scream cultural criticism about how television numbs our loneliness; Shannon Faulkner's attempt to become the first woman to attend South Carolina's all-male Citadel military college is dramatized as the cruelest episode of Double Dare ever, with a little bit of Whitney Houston's "I Will Always Love You" mixed in for the sake of pathos.
The show is ostensibly about why famous male fuckups are mythologized while female fuckups are ridiculed into obscurity. Rather than in-depth exploration, the skits mostly provide observation and rumination. A few gender-bending experiments don't provide any insight into the thesis but are at least interesting to watch. River Phoenix's interviews and lines from My Own Private Idaho, for example, sound more tender, even freighted with an embarrassing longing, when they come from the mouth of Danielle Daggerty, even though she more or less precisely mimics the rumpled Phoenix's aggressive indifference.
Daggerty leads the way for a pleasurable jumble of performances. Marty Krouse opens the show with a version of Bill Clinton's first inaugural address that gets the warm, optimistic core of Clinton exactly right without being too imitative. Melinda Parks's Courtney Love similarly nails the spirit without slavishly adhering to the parody of Love that Love has become. But sometimes c. 1993 feels too weighted with the kind of wry nostalgia that flows when you're reminiscing—a kind of forehead-slapping "Oh yeah, I remember 'Achy Breaky Heart'" spirit.
A denser structure—a framing device, a repeated scene or speech, something more than a four-digit number—would provide c. 1993 with a firmer spine; as it is, it flounders around the stage, scrabbling for a point and occasionally falling back on a cheap, I Love the '90s TV-show vibe.