Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Review: (Toronto) Teach Me (Fringe)

Really, Please, Teach Them
by Jason Booker

What a hot mess.

Rachel Ganz's Teach Me tells the story of two prep school girls who may or may not have a crush on or may or may not have messed around with their math teacher, the only male on faculty. As the play begins, the girls have been left alone in the classroom after detention supervised by Mr. P, who really deserved a name and not a glaring obvious symbolic title. They look out the window to see that Mr P may or may not be masturbating in his car and record a video of the event. Well, Stacey records a video that Lauren can't quite see. They debate whether to go public with this video of a teacher who may or may not be married to see if they can stir up some shit. Then he enters and the play that might have worked falls apart.

It falls apart due to Robert Rainville's performance as Mr. P, a wishy-washy weakling with not enough physical presence or stature to take on these young ladies. It falls apart due to horrifically bad writing of Mr. P; Ganz knows how to write young women (she is one herself) but can't find the voice of this allegedly authoritative male character.

It falls apart due to writing that is so muddy and circular that my companion and I were perplexed trying to figure out what was true and what was simply power struggle. With characters that no one actually sympathizes with, why try to make them human at all? Follow Mamet's lead with Oleanna and create a whip-smart set of circumstances and dialogue instead. Tragically, the premise is here for a good play but it gets lost. Arguments seem out of order - don't start with this-could-lose-me-my-job: that admits guilt and launches the rest of the play into a series of pleas. The climax of the play is beyond bizarre and not for the squeamish.

The young women playing the leads salvage something in this confusion, but fleshed out performances they are not. They come off as professional, following the blocking that leaves them in profile more often than not, upstaging each other and standing in lines. 

And that isn't dealing with the atrociously obvious and ill-conceived lighting or sound for the show.

Teach Me needs a few lessons in how to create suspense and hold your attention once it sets up a great premise.

Teach Me is at the Toronto Fringe

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