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Class Act
a Drama
by Rich Rubin

COMPANY : Rising Sage Theatre Company [WEBSITE]
VENUE : West End Performing Arts Center [WEBSITE]
ID# 4773

SHOWING : September 03, 2015 - September 19, 2015



Kai, a young African-American woman, is a conscientious student at a prestigious East Coast university. When Rebecca, her sociology professor, seeks a volunteer to portray a living-on-the-edge prostitute as part of an in-class, role-play exercise, Kai raises her hand, believing that she’s helping to “give voice” to a marginalized member of society. Kai’s performance in that role proves to be extraordinarily realistic – so realistic, in fact that unintended consequences soon result for Kai and Rebecca both.

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Class Clash
by playgoer
Sunday, September 6, 2015
Rich Rubin’s "Class Act" tells of a college student, Kai (Brittany Inge), who volunteers to role play a prostitute for a sociology class, and examines the repercussions of this choice in her life. She is surrounded by what could be stock, stereotypical characters – a professor who glories in controversy (Judith Beasley), a privileged white airhead of a roommate (Audra Pagano), a jock boyfriend (Terrell Johnson), and a sassy gay friend (Gemayel Thompson). All these characters are given added dimensions, though, so we get a feel for what their viewpoints are. Kai may be at the center of the story, but the focus is more on the ripples surrounding her dive into the role of a prostitute.

All the performances are good. Ms. Inge in particular gives a standout performance. The production itself, however, has some problems. The uncredited set design is pretty simple and drab – a futon and coffee table stage left for the boyfriend scenes, a wooden chair stage right for the college office scenes, and a raw wooden table and padded, stackable chairs for scenes in Kai’s apartment, with one chair moved slightly for classroom scenes. Simple black curtains form the backing for the set. Marcus Emel’s lighting design tends to illuminate from the side, drawing more attention to itself than is perhaps ideal. This is particularly the case near the end of the play, when lights go up on each section of the stage in turn. There’s probably a point intended, but it almost seems like the light board operator is searching for someone onstage who is making an unexpectedly delayed entrance.

That’s not the only problem as the play comes to an end. The sassy gay friend has a cryptic speech repeating the word "class," and the pace of it is unexpectedly slow, probably in part because director Jarrod Walker has made the choice to have Kai return to the stage in her opening costume for a final vignette, and the costume change takes time (even though the costume, as all in the production, is altogether fitting). The intentions of this last scene are muddled. It’s only in a talk-back session after the play is over that the intention becomes clear (that Kai is performing as part of an acting class).

The conclusion of the play is intentionally open-ended, but this production makes it confusingly so. This is a world premiere, and script revisions could make this a stronger play. The scenes are fairly short, and tend to restate people’s positions as much as moving them forward. A sense of urgency comes late, in a second-act revelation as to who has sent letters of complaint to the dean of the college concerning the role-playing. Still, this play does an excellent job of raising questions about race relationships and stereotypes and how good intentions can have negative consequences. In provoking thought and discussion, this play certainly succeeds. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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