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The Teacher’s Lounge or One Child Left Behind The Shop

Remaining Performances: July 22 at 7:30 p.m.; July 26 at 1:45 p.m.

They say: The personal is political. First-year teacher Carli negotiates the pressures and personalities of an urban charter school. But when a student’s questions put her personal and professional lives in conflict, will she sacrifice her ideals to save her career?

Suzyn’s take: First off, I have to note that the question asked above isn’t ever actually answered.   At one point, it seems clear what the first-year teacher intends to do—but events intercede.   And despite the play’s consistent tone and level of energy throughout, it nevertheless left one asking, “Wait, what?” when it was over.

That sounds like an unsatisfying ending, and maybe it was a bit.  Also, the show begins with someone rattling the doorknob on the theater’s fire exit to find it locked, which is frankly not something anyone wants to see in these theaters.  But between that beginning and the ending, this is a very strong and well-acted show that’s very much worth a look.

I was particularly taken with Lolita-Marie’s performance as a veteran teacher who says “I never smile before spring break,” then delivers a smile that looks like an attempt at such by someone who is indeed out of practice.   Her performance was subtle and sympathetic:  At one point, she argues that to place a black student in special ed was essentially to put him on a path to jail.  (I wasn’t sure about that and checked with every teacher I knew who had worked in the inner city.  Every one of my friends agreed that the teacher’s was the prevailing view.  Showed me.)

The script details the difficulties of an inner-city teacher’s life, from a broken copier to complaints about “No Child Left Behind” Legislation to a truly stunning array of behavior problems.   (Yelling “Cheetoes” at random intervals?) Carli, the first-year teacher, is still learning to cope with it all.  I found myself wondering if her tight t-shirt and push-up bra were causing some of the disciplinary infractions; Carli’s clothing contrasted against the more sedate clothes of the experienced teachers—a subtle underscoring of her lack of experience.

Carli’s inexperience is central to the plot, which is hard to discuss without giving away more surprises than I should.   At times, the plot twists become a little tiresome as the show raises curiosity about crucial plot points then pulls them out of reach for awhile.  But the strength of the performances and the complexities of the characters make for an absorbing show that you’ll want to talk about all the way home.

See it if: Your teacher mother-in-law is in town.  (I sincerely wish my teacher mother-in-law were in town so I could take her.)   Or if you’re looking for a well-acted drama so real that it could be taking place tomorrow morning a few blocks from the theater.

Skip it if:  It’s not Fringe without the hotpants, the topless swordfighters or the pooping monkey.