Random Productions and Mad Duck Theatre Society

The Lesson
by Eugene Ionesco

Venue: Carousel Rehearsal Hall
Dates: 16 and 23 August 2003

Reviewer: Jane Penistan


 Director Amanda Lockitch
Set/Costume design Marcus Wu
Producktion manager Sean Cummings
Stage manager Kirsti Mikoda





John Paterson as the Professor and Karen Rebecca Black as the student

This one act play is performed every hour on the hour from 2.00 p.m. until the last performance at 9.00 p.m. on two successive Saturdays, August 16 and August 23.

Three actors sustain 8 successive and successful performances. There are four pupils who continuously come for their lessons. A new pupil knocks on the Professor's door as the preceding one leaves through the backstage. The Professor's maids tidy up after each lesson and get their master back to his work with the next student.

Piles of books define the acting area and serve as seats. An old schoolmaster's desk holds secrets, while a large wall clock marks the passage of time.

Grey haired and somewhat bent at the knee, the Professor shambles onto the stage to greet his new pupil, before going back to have his surprisingly new and immaculate academic gown thrust at him by his maids. Having assumed his gown, the Professor is now in character to begin to instruct his eager, shy, thoughtful or ingenuous pupil.

Who could imagine that such a polite, patient and gentle elderly teacher could be so irascible or unpredictable? His maids know him well and keep an eye on him with his nubile students. They also warn him of his tendency to misbehaviour and are embarrassingly bossy and insolent.

The students are young and innocent in their school uniforms. All have a desire to learn because their wealthy parents hope they will become successful in their adult lives. Whether nervous, or eager, all four are floored by the professor's mathematical concepts. Gradually it becomes clear that the professor is intent on forcing his opinions on his students, and those who don't or won't understand him are in disgrace. Reduced to near tears and fear the students are in the master's power to the end of the lesson.

As the four students, Anastatia Filipczuk, Angela Ferreira, Robin Mooney and Karen Rebecca Black each present a different student. All have a youthful energy and enthusiasm, but where one may be very unsophisticated, another may be more adult in her approach to the Professor. One will be earnest and studious, note taking, and inquisitive while she waits for her lesson; another will be nervous and over eager to please. Yet they all in their different ways become subject to the master's will.

As the aging professor, John Paterson sustains his somewhat not-in-this- world air. He reacts slightly differently with each pupil, even though the script does not change from hour to hour. His gradual transformation from gentle academic to dominating fanatic is subtle, masterly and menacing.

The maids, Cristina DeFazio and Amy Peradenic are efficient and matter of fact, impolite and managing.

Directed by Amanda Lockitch this presentation is an interesting concept. There are some incidents in the performance that are puzzling to the audience, notably... why, at a critical point, do the maids do a tap and castanets dance which distracts the audience from the action at the other side of the wide stage area? Is this part of the mesmerism? At the end why does the professor not assume his party badge when he dresses in his street clothes?

The acting, speech and timing are good throughout and the energy sustained incredibly well four or eight times over.

The audience is drawn into the act and astonished by this marathon's episodes.

The Lesson runs at Carousel Rehearsal Hall, 1411 Cartwright Street, Granville Island, August 16 and 23, 2003, at 2.00 p.m. every hour on the hour until the last performance at 9.00 p.m. Admission is by donation.

2003, Jane Penistan