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Up the Down Staircase
a Drama
by Bel Kaufman

COMPANY : Next Stage Theatre Company [WEBSITE]
VENUE : New Dawn Theater [WEBSITE]
ID# 3874

SHOWING : November 11, 2010 - November 14, 2010



Sylvia Barrett embarks on her first year of teaching in an urban school and meets the challenges of unruly students and mindless bureaucracy.w

Director Rob Hardie
Bea Schachter Alison Paul
Click to Submit Cast & Crew Info for this production


A Downer All the Way
by playgoer
Monday, November 15, 2010
I remember reading Bel Kaufman's book "Up the Down Staircase" as a teen and finding it a heartwarming, interesting read. The play version turns the book into a trite skeleton of a story. Next Stage Theatre Company's production does little to disguise its shortcomings.

The show does have good lighting, considering the primitive lighting scheme available at New Dawn Theater. The script calls for quick cuts between characters, and the light placement allows that to occur instantly. The blocking is pretty simple, to match the fixed positions of the lights, but it works just fine.

Where the production seems to have gone wrong is in its determination to make the show a 70's tribute. Annoying song clips play repeatedly. Costumes tend toward the kitschy. The children in the cast seem to have been encouraged to concentrate on cuteness, at the expense of a story that revolves around the somewhat threatening nature of a big city classroom. The only "villain" in the piece seems to be the school bureaucracy, and that makes for a pretty boring battle.

The one spot in the show that garnered applause was a mimed scene in act two that portrayed schoolroom activity. There really wasn't anything new conveyed in the scene, but it was performed with energy and clarity. The overlapping classroom conversations in much of the rest of the show lack clarity, as do individual student speeches on top of a suggestion box, masked as they are by the accompanying soundtrack.

Performances are of varying strengths. MAT award winner Zip Rampy is a joy in his vignettes as Mr. Bester, as are Evan Weisman as principal Clarke and Elizabeth Blakemore as Ellen. Ashley Rebecca Jones, in the lead role of Sylvia Barrett, does a fine job, but doesn't fully engage the audience in her journey, since there seems to be little difference in her character at the start and the end of her performace.

Of the child roles, the best are those played by young adults. Eric Turan convincingly portrays underachiever Joe Ferone, and Christie Lee Fisher brings depth and intensity to love-struck Alice Blake. Jamie Link and Daniel Pino also make an impression in their smaller roles. A lot of the younger actors show promise, but they tend to blend rather than contrast, adding to the impression of sameness over the length of the performance.

As presented by Next Stage Theatre Company, "Up the Down Staircase" is a pretty dull production of a less than lively script. The action is unfocused and often seems under-rehearsed. Let's hope for an improvement in next year's "The Wedding Singer." [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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