I cannot predict that Schooled will be the breakout hit of this year's Fringe, the vagaries of theatre being what they are. However, I can say that it should be. Schooled is just this side of superb.
|Stein, Maré |
Photo: Andrea Reese
Smartly written by Lisa Lewis and smoothly directed by James Kautz, Schooled focuses on the triangle of Claire, an ambitious screenwriting student at a ritzy film school; her professor Andrew, a semi-successful screenwriter who mentors her, or perhaps "mentors" her; and her rich boyfriend Jake, also a student and also ambitious, with whom she is competing for an important grant.
A simple description of Schooled would say that it's about the disadvantages of trying to succeed as a woman in a male-dominated milieu (aren't they all?), but Schooled goes further. Andrew, 50 years old and married with kids, clearly wants to have sex with Claire, but he also respects her. Jake bristles with entitled confidence, which smooths the path of his life but makes him an emotional loser. Claire has to put up with the condescension of both men, and she is never given the option to succeed on the strength of her ability. However, Claire is not a victim; she may be reduced to one weapon--her sexuality--but she uses it well. It is difficult to say from moment to moment just who has the most power, and that is Schooled's brilliance.
Schooled also has a lot to say about the insane world of Hollywood, and while it doesn't break new ground, it covers the familiar area with wry and entertaining insight.
Schooled's main weakness is that Jake is so shallow, possessive, and self-centered that (1) it's hard to buy that Claire wants to be with him, and (2) his corner of the triangle is weakened. His character deserves to have at least some redeeming features. The other fairly large problem is that, in a scene where Andrew and Claire are at a bar, the actors must mime throwing darts. I'm not sure if the actors just didn't do it well, or if the whole idea is problematic, but it becomes a distraction during an important scene.
Lilli Stein does fine work as Claire, nicely capturing her vulnerabilities, strengths, and anger. Quentin Maré nails Andrew's very human combination of ego and self-hatred, and he manages to be both charming and infuriating. Stephen Friedrich is unfortunately one-dimensional, but so is his character.
Schooled simmers and erupts at the place where ambition meets sexuality meets insecurity--and it does so with wit and insight. It's the sort of entertaining 90 minutes that you think about for hours after.
(4th row, press ticket)