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Class Acts 

Student-teacher relationships are front and center in two local performances

click to enlarge Josh Parra, Samantha Cormier, Brie Zepeda, and Steve Wood in Seminar

Courtesy Live Theatre Workshop

Josh Parra, Samantha Cormier, Brie Zepeda, and Steve Wood in Seminar

Something Something Theatre

Something Something Theatre company is opening their season with Scarborough, a weird little play by Fiona Evans. Some weird little plays are wonderful; others not so much. Afraid this one, at least in this incarnation, falls into the latter category.

It's hard to understand really what the play is attempting to do. But since it involves two acts of exactly identical dialogue, we would expect something intriguing.

But I just couldn't find it.

Both acts involve a look at two situations that are really the same situation. In the first we see high school student Daz (Lucas Giacalone) and his teacher, Lauren (Callie Hutchison), who have come to Scarborough for a weekend tryst. The second act involves a young student, Beth (Kyleigh Sacco) who has come with her teacher, Aiden (Boz Lomasney) for the same purpose as the first couple.

Perhaps the playwright thinks it's worth examining our reaction when the sexes are reversed?

The production doesn't help our grasp of what possible goal Evans was reaching for. The first act was flat. The actors' energy was no where near what it needed to be to get the show rolling. Accents were odd when they were present; there were problems with volume and diction. And there was no palpable chemistry between the characters.

The second act yielded more life, and if you missed any of the dialogue in the first act, you'll revisit it in this one. Still, even though these actors attacked the situation with more energy, there was still no real sexual chemistry. But at least we toyed with caring about these two.

Affairs between students and teachers have been going on for years. They are fraught with danger—revelation of their secrecy, the possibility of lost jobs and the lack of hope for a genuine future between the two parties. From Something Something's reading of Evans play, there isn't revealed a new take on the issue nor the discovery of new issues inherent in such a fraught situation. In spite of the earnest work of director Whitney Woodcock and her cast, Scarborough is not what we hoped it would be.

Live Theatre Workshop

Over at Live Theatre Workshop is another tale of students and teacher, but one completely different in tone and content.

The play is Seminar by Theresa Rebeck, a writer of considerable renown who has published several novels, written for TV and had onstage successes in New York.

In this play, she devises a story in which several youngish would-be writers have paid $5,000 each to a writer/editor/literary guy to learn more about the craft. Dowdy Kate (Samantha Cormier), is a product of wealth, who resides in a super-roomy rent-controlled apartment and has been working on the same story for six years. Then there's Douglas (Josh Parra), an annoying guy who has a relative in the publishing biz and goes on about the "interiority" and exteriority" of things to Izzy (Brie Zepeda), an attractive young woman, while Martin (Steve Wood) stands behind them rolling his eyes. Their teacher Leonard (Jonathan Northover) is a slight, artsy-scarfed has-been sort of guy who is immediately unlikeable because of his ill-mannered and brutal way of dealing with his charges. He pounces on poor Kate's story, saying he can't get past the first five words without knowing that it's a "soul-sucking" story of someone obsessed with Jane Austen. By some magic he can tell in the first words or a paragraph or two if the piece is worth anything. It might have more promise, however, if it were penned by a sexy looker like Izzy. Like a lot of the play, this scene is funny and creepy at the same time.

The cast, under the direction of Eva Tessler, brings the piece energy, heat and heart, and it keeps us interested and humored. However, the play rather confused me, knowing a bit about Rebeck.

She has been a loud voice of complaint that New York theater in particular doesn't produce the number of women playwrights commensurate with the number of female graduates in playwriting programs, as well the number of females who buy tickets. In 1999, she was scourged quite viciously as a feminist who couldn't write a play without offending men. The play, The Butterfly Collection, kicked off such a hateful backlash that her agent suggested she go write novels.

LTW has produced at least two of her plays, neither of which would be described as uber-feminist. She does have a knack for storytelling, especially of the comedic kind. But here she leads her characters to a rather strange ending. Although Leonard has warned in a passionately cruel speech of the horrors of trying to be a writer, in the play's final moments we see him as actually a seriously tortured writer himself, cozying up to young Martin as they forge a brotherhood, an intellectual romance, even as young, initially uptight feminist Kate exits Leonard's flat after what appears to be a sex-filled rollicking good time.

That this last scene requires a set change for a scene that lasts maybe 10 minutes, while the rest of the play takes place in Kate's flat, is in itself is jarring.

Seeing Kate trying to find her panties and transforming herself to appear feminine and sexy also seems jarring. Although Rebeck writes as Kate's exit line, "Boys, boys boys—you never get enough of yourself," Kate seems perfectly fine with her new job as a ghost writer, while the boys find an alliance that matters.

We have not been prepared by what has gone before for this action nor its tone. What did Rebeck intend?

Still, the little more than 90-minute piece is always involving, thanks to solid performances, even if we are left scratching our heads at the end.

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