By Catherine Wagley
By Channing Sargent
By L.A. Weekly critics
By Amanda Lewis
By Catherine Wagley
By Carol Cheh
By Keegan Hamilton
By Bill Raden
Furthermore, the play is punctuated with characters, in an otherwise realistic setting, breaking aside to tell the audience their true feelings. This is not Shakespearean, it's gratuitous: The information delivered by fourth-wall telegram could easily be revealed within the scenes. The breakaways are so frequent they upset the rhythm, despite director Dan Guntzelman's best efforts to sustain it. The device feels as lazily conceived as Joe's note.
Less intrusive, and slightly less dubious, is the use of the cheerleader to burst into the showdown between Miss Edwards and Joe with a sparklingly rendered idiotic cheer, underscoring themes that are being discussed. The device certainly adds a coating of silliness, which has mixed results: It begs us not to take things too seriously, the downside being that it begs us not to take things too seriously. Perhaps the perception of the tone is better left to the director and to the audience's receptors, despite McKee's ebullient performance.
The evening's ultimate salvation lies in the rapport between teacher Gobetti and student Guntzelman. Though Gobetti faltered in some of the longer passages at the performance I attended, she can deliver a wry one-liner with the best of them — little daggers flicked into her opponent with a wink and a smile.
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"Miss Edwards, school's over, people are cleaning out their lockers," Joe pleads near the start of their showdown, aching to go home, to which she replies, "The year sure flew by, didn't it?" with the sweetest of smiles. This is torture dripped in honey, and she's relishing every drop.
Guntzelman provides an oaf's swagger that teeters into desperation. When he starts his roll on the philosophy of life as seen through basketball, he also reveals a penetrating intelligence.
Gary Randall's set fills the theater with the high school bulletin boards, seat-desks and a chalkboard in colors that underscore the production's wavering tone, between earnestness and parody.