Highly Recommended **** School Days, School Days, dear old, oh heck, you know the rest of this ditty, but if you are (or were) a teacher in a major school district, such as Chicago Public Schools, you will really see the “True Grit” of what playwright Joe Zarrow brings to the stage in the remount of “Principal Principle” now being presented by Stage Left Theatre and Theatre Seven of Chicago , now onstage at Theater Wit in Chicago.This original cast is back and doing their thing through August 17th.
Directed by Scott Bishop on a set by Joe Schermoly, the action takes place in a high school in Chicago. It is primarily the area that four teachers “reside” during non-classroom time. A sanctuary where they can be themselves and talk to their co-workers about the system that they work in. The set is realistic, making one feel that they are peering into the private lives of these four women, and their Principal.
This particular story is based on the actual teaching experiences of Mr. Zarrow who taught in the CPS system. Our story involves a brand new teacher, one who gave up her corporate world existence so she could help the kids. Kay (Cassy Sanders is wonderful in her character, but often failed to project to the back row of the auditorium, a no-no in the world of theater). Her co-workers are three experienced teachers, the older and salty, near retirement aged, Denise (played to comic perfection by Barbara Roeder Harris) and Sheely ( McKenzie Chinn) and Ola (Elayna Elyce) who have learned the system. These two teachers are African-Americans, who grew up in the city system, living in the very neighborhood they are teaching in, so they have a better understanding of what must be done to help these kids. Kay, who is a suburban girl, may in fact be somewhat of a racist, despite her wanting only to come to the aid of those she is teaching.
This play is a look at the behind the scenes politics of the world of education and the system that has caused teachers to look at their lives in a different way than those who taught when I was going to school. For the most part, I was raised in the CPS system and my teachers were not anything like those in this story, but perhaps behind the closed doors of the teaches lounge or their offices this did go on. In this story we learn how the Principal, Ms Banerjee (smartly portrayed by Arya Daire), uses every thing she can to get the new kid, Kay, to get the dirt on the others .
This is an intriguing two hours of solid entertainment along with some human values to explore in two hours of non-stop acting there is a ten minute intermission). What makes a production like this work so well is that, like a fine dinner, the recipe has all the proper ingredients: Adam Smith’s sound, John Kohn III’s lighting, Brenda Winstead’s costumes, and the great props assembled by Cassy Schillo. these were all mixed just right by director Bishop making this a show that is highly enjoyable for teachers (I think tonight’s’ audience was 75% teachers) but educational for us lay people. There are some great voice overs (Taron Patton) that are laugh-a-minute reminders of the daily announcements we hear at Senn High School.
Principal Principle will continue at Theater Wit located at 1229 West Belmont through August 17th with performances as follows:
Sundays at 3 p.m.
Tickets for this open seating production are $20-$32 and can be purchased at the box office, by phone at 773-975-8150 or online at www.theaterwit.org
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-up and click at “Principal Principle”