Monday, June 14, 2010

Theater Review - Class

By Charles Evered
Directed by Roy Steinberg
Cape May Stage - Cape May, New Jersey

A young woman walks into an acting class studio, sloppily dressed, donning sunglasses...eager to study with one of the most well-respected acting teachers around. Elliot, said teacher, immediately takes a dislike to her, giving her plenty of rejection and attitude from the very start. Thus sets the scene for the conflict and self-discovery for both characters throughout Class.

Charles Evered’s story is a fascinating one which could really come alive if opened up for film. I loved the story and the characterizations, even though the dialogue seemed a little heavy-handed from time to time. With only two characters in a play, the action could have easily become stale but under Roy Steinberg’s solid direction, this was never the case. While there is room for improvement, overall the play was very enjoyable.

Although Thaao Penghlis has not been on stage since his successful run on different television shows such as General Hospital, Days of Our Lives and Mission Impossible, you would never know it. He was completely commanding on stage as Elliot, the brilliant acting teacher who had known better days. Wrestling with self-loathing and bitterness, the character has a quick wit and an amusing charm which keeps the audience in his corner, despite his intimidating presence, sadistic remarks and addiction to “the drug of control“. I suspect that quite a few successful actors have had such a figure in their lives: an instructor who would torture as well as inspire. I never knew whether to expect Elliot to purr out a cruel comment, roar with indignation at some slight or show a surprising amount of sympathy and vulnerability. This always made him an exciting presence to watch.

There is no question that Heather Matarazzo is a fine actress in film, particularly in the roles of Welcome to the Dollhouse and The Princess Diaries. However, on stage, she was a mixed bag as the student, Sarah, the sci-fi film queen who longs to be taken seriously. Following in the footsteps of Marilyn Monroe (who also desired to be seen as a real actress rather than as just a “dumb blonde” comedienne), Sarah through persistence and humor wins Elliot over into taking her on as a pupil. As her whip-cracking teacher points out, she is too concerned with being a likeable personality, relying more on humor and self-effacing charm to get the part rather than doing the real work of breathing life into the character on the page. Unfortunately, the same could be said of the actress who played her. The charm and humor took Matarazzo a long way but not quite far enough.

The set perfectly evoked the feeling of a small acting studio, complete with the wooden boxes, ramshackle desk and chair, along with the costume rack and props. Cape May Stage is a fairly intimate theater (much like the black box stages of New York City) which aided in the set's realism.

In the end, this play was about courage…whether it is the courage to perform a monologue for a brutally honest acting teacher, the courage to deal with failure and mistakes of the past and move the hell on anyway or even the courage to face death. In Elliot and Sarah's case, they surprisingly found the strength they needed from the most unexpected place: each other. A tried and true formula? Yes, but one that works, especially for this piece.


  1. Perfect words Laurie. I hope to see it again someday at another venue!

  2. Excellent job, Laurie! You captured Elliot to a tee, especially the sadistic remarks lol. He was a fascinating character. Still there's plenty of room for both characters to be fleshed out more if the story makes it past the stage which would be an exciting prospect.

  3. I wish I could have seen it. I like the story I heard so far from people. I watched the commercials on it and I could tell Thaao was powerful. I love your write up Laurie.