Wednesday, June 8, 2011

review - Sex and Education


CRITIC'S PICK
Sex and Education
by Lissa Levin
directed by Dan Guntzelman
Victory Theatre
through July 17

With a title that is bound to pique interest - Is it porn? Is there nudity? - if not dubious expectations,  Lissa Levin's West coast premiere Sex and Education turns out to be a far more refreshing and substantial play than one might imagine. Well structured and laugh-filled, the play is currently receiving an excellent production at the Victory Theatre.

After spending a lifetime in teaching, I have come to the conclusion like Miss Edwards (Maria Gobetti) that knowledge by itself has power, but, unfortunately, nowadays it's what sells that counts. Education is more a commodity and the teacher/student rapport more a game - a highly competitive one - than ever! Get into that college, seize that job, grab that money, go, go, go! Whatever happened to rich, intelligent conversation as a by-product - no, goal - of education? It was there at one time, believe me! And there are still a handful of us who insist on excellence and do not allow students to get away with mediocrity. Joe Marks (Kanin Guntzelman) can get accepted into college on a basketball scholarship, so has few worries, but when he passes a note to his cheerleader girlfriend (Jessica McKee), Edwards uses the infraction to keep Joe after class. She is leaving the profession to spend her remaining years as a hopefully lucrative realtor, so views the opportunity as a last chance to get this kid to learn to write an essay properly. What is delightful about the assignment is that she takes the note he wrote about sex with ample four letter words and attempts to get him to rewrite it as a persuasive essay about why the girl should accept his offer of sexual favors. Of course, it's a struggle for the teacher and the student, who doesn't know a verb from an adjective, let alone a persuasive essay from an expository one. But what expires in the process is a learning experience - first hand - that leads to a better composition. After all, you can only write about what you know, so the old proverbial statement works here. Certainly stretched out of proportion for theatrical purposes, it works and makes for a very amusing interchange from which both student and teacher do reap rewards.

Gobetti is the perfect choice for Miss Edwards. With her years of experience as a teacher and coach, she has learned a thing or two about how to get her points across. She is totally convincing in an intelligent, yet cautious performance. Guntzelman is appropriately confused, egotistical and playful and McKee steals every scene as the sexy cheerleader who knows how to get what she wants. Bravo to Levin's insight to use the cheerleader throughout the play, as her cheers serve as a kind of commercial to sell the product. Levin also  takes the educative process and the sexual tryst and combines them quite cleverly for a finale message about the values of learning. Dan Guntzelman's direction has the right pace and mood, allowing the actors to be funny without getting out of line.

Sex and Education is memorable entertainment with lots of chuckles, so go! And if you stay focused and pay attention, you might even learn something along the way.

5 out of 5 stars

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