Do you do theater? You do? Good ... I got a play for you.
If you're a public school teacher, you're gonna love this play.
If you're a NYC public school student, you're gonna love this play.
If you're a parent of children in the NYC school system, you're gonna love this play.
If you attended a NYC public school, you're...oh well, by now you get the point. I can't think of anyone, even those who have nothing to do with NYC public schools, who is not going to get supercharged and blown-away by Nilaja Sun's one-woman show at the Barrow Street Theater.
Great theater that should not be missed.
Nilaja Sun is a young Black woman playwright and actor who has written a play based on her teaching experience in the Bronx's Martin Luther King, Jr. High School. That school is considered one of the city's toughest.
In an exceptional performance, Ms. Sun transforms herself, in front of your very eyes, into many different characters. The first thing that amazed me was the sheer elasticity of her face. This is a very attractive young woman, but what she does with her face in becoming an aged African-American janitor, a novice Asian teacher, a Carribbean school security guard, an Irish principal and an assortment of down-and-out kids is nothing short of incredible. And, of course, it's not only the face. Her voice, intonation, posture and personality change as well - instantaneously and back and forth.
The kids belong to the school's "worst" class. Poorest of the poor, from broken families and mean streets, they have been categorized in advance, by everyone in authority, as dregs, incapable of learning or behaving. The play takes this notion head-on but even the idealistic and energetic Ms. Sun gets beat up by a system that is literally falling down all around her and failing miserably in its goals of educating NYC's children.
There is a play within a play. Ms. Sun has been hired as a drama teacher who tries to mold this class of "misfits" into thespians. The goal is to produce a play for parents, friends and the rest of the school within the space of several weeks.
When we saw the play, the audience was quite diverse and there were quite a few Black youngsters who found the impersonations of the students very accurate. How do I know? From the tears of unrestrained laughter that were running down quite a few cheeks. Stacey, retired from teaching art at a city school, identified personally with the depictions performed by this brilliant actor.
This is a play that is hilarious at the same time that it is sad, depressing, angry and uplifting. It's a strong critique of government, both local and national, that has been dismembering public education under the obfuscating slogan of No Child Left Behind. I strongly urge you to see No Child. Take your kids, your family and your friends. Not to worry -- this is a play without the Broadway glitz and spectacle, but you will get to see more fabulous acting and drama in a short 70 minutes than you'll see in an entire season on Broadway.
Reduced price tickets are available on TDF (if you're a member) or, even better, on WBAI on David Rothenberg's program - Saturday mornings from 8:30 to 10:30.
Do not, under any circumstances, miss this exciting theater experience.