Fringe Encore Series
Written by Lisa Lewis
Directed by James Kautz
October 10, 2015
A jaded film professor and two students form a love and work triangle in Schooled, winner of the 2015 NY International Fringe Festival Overall Excellence Award for Playwriting and part of the Fringe Encore Series at Soho Playhouse. Claire (Lilli Stein) is a smart young woman marked by her hard life background, Jake (Stephen Friedrich) plays her boyfriend born into wealth and privilege, a guy to whom everything has always come easy. The play, written by Lisa Lewis and very well directed by James Kautz, delves into the lengths we go to get ahead as the students compete for the same grant to make a film.
Quentin Maré plays Andrew, a fiftyish, alcoholic professor, who must have a pretty light teaching schedule to be able to spend so much time hanging out in a bar. We know he’ll make a pass at Claire but this doesn’t happen right away as the two work together honing their screenplays. Jake combines arrogance with charm although his approach seemed a little studied. When for once life doesn’t fall smoothly into his attractive lap, he, (as snidely suggested by Andrew), heads for LA where he’s the right type to succeed.
Andrew, whose best work is behind him, is in an unhappy second marriage and wishes he could make art films instead of the horror flicks that pay the bills. As he tells Claire, “You can have anything you want, as long as you’re willing to live with the consequences.” Maré’s fine performance captures his longing to enjoy more success even as he enjoys wielding power over his students who want to win the grant on their merits but find themselves drawn into a tangle of sexual politics.
The play’s biggest problem is the lack of a powerful inciting incident but the characters are appealing and mostly well-drawn (Jake is a bit of a sketch) and many lines carry biting humor. There is chemistry between Andrew and Claire; less between Claire and Jake especially in the scene when he confronts the professor with Claire in which his acting seemed forced. The ninety-minute play moves along at a good pace with enough zingers to keep the serious undertones afloat although I wish the ending were a little less predictable.
Work by playwright Lewis has been published in the New York Times, Elle Magazine and the Kirkus Review. A graduate of NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts (where Schooled seems to take place), she’s already young film world veteran.
The set by Tyler M. Perry, neatly conveys the bar complete with dart board as well as Claire’s dorm room but the sound design from Jeanne Travis was, at times, distracting. What does it take to get ahead in a competitive field like filmmaking? Schooled doesn’t even try to answer all the questions about what lengths people will go to but it explores the situation in an entertaining way.