Playwright Charles Evered takes the low road to easy sentimentality and derivative storytelling in “Class,” a West Coast premiere at the Falcon.
Evered’s two-person comedy-drama features a dominant teacher and a submissive pupil -- a transformative mentor/mentee relationship we have seen before.
Elliot (Gildart Jackson) is an exacting and temperamental acting teacher whose intellectual snarkiness knows few bounds. Sidelined from his own promising career by personal trauma, only rudely delineated here, Elliot is initially disdainful of perky prospective acting student Sarah (Callie Schuttera), but reluctantly admits her for individual study.
By the time these apposite personalities are beginning to bond, Elliot learns that Sarah is actually a world-famous movie star -- yet another strain on their fractious association.
That revelation is not really a spoiler, coming as it does so early in the play. Yet there’s another, more dire revelation to come. And although many may be able to see this plot “twist” coming a country mile away, suffice it to say that it vaults this unlikely duo on the path to true -- if not lasting -- emotional intimacy.
François-Pierre Couture’s set seems a bit too squeaky clean to motivate Sarah’s comments on its general grunginess. Director Dimitri Toscas does his best to balance Elliot’s British disdain and Sarah’s American sweetness, the play’s central (and only) relationship cloys as its characters descend into caricature.
It’s ironic that Sarah, the star, is trying to jettison the tricks, tics and mannerisms that have made her so successful, when the play's characters seem at times mannered to the point of archness.
That, one suspects, is more a problem of the text than the actors’ abilities. Indeed, Jackson and Schuttera remain valiantly sympathetic despite the emotional inauthenticity of their material. They strive, and often succeed, in enlivening this problematic play.
“Class,” Falcon Theatre, 4252 Riverside Drive, Burbank. 8 p.m. Wednesdays-Saturdays, 4 p.m. Sundays. Ends April 19. $36.50-$44. (818) 955-8101. www.falcontheatre.com. Running time: 1 hour, 35 minutes.