“No Child…,” written in 2007 by Nilaja Sun, is a brilliant journey into the life of teaching artist Ms. Sun. After she arrives at Malcolm X High School, her expectations are shattered when she discovers her students like to skip class more than listen to her.
The play, which opened Feb. 9, will run at 7 p.m. Feb. 17 and 18 and at 2 p.m. Feb. 19 in Sponberg Theater.
This show contains adult language and is recommended for mature audiences.
Whatever you are looking for, “No Child…” is prepared to give it to you. Directed by Wallace Bridges, “No Child…” is a balanced production offering hysterical moments and tearful confessions.
Every cast member plays at least two roles in this production. Red Rudisel plays big shot Jerome and quiet Phillip. Both characters are very distinct. Rudisel did a great job of contrasting the two characters; you could always tell who was speaking.
Rudisel wasn’t the only one. All the cast members did a wonderful job maintaining the illusion of multiple people speaking. Everyone was able to pop (change) characters fluidly. Those clean transitions led to a great understanding of the play, which would have been a bit confusing otherwise.
Contrasting the complex content of the script and even more complex acting is the extremly simple and understated set design. The largest scene consists of only six chairs and three desks.
This pairing down of props was a smart choice; it really helped to maximize the stage space. It also put the focus on the action instead of being a distraction.
One small design choice I really appreciated is the construction of the doorways. Instead of being built into flats (walls), the doors are cut out of the flats, leaving the stage open for actors and props to pass through.
The story begins with artist Ms. Sun, who lands job teaching performing arts in Bronx, New York, one of the poorest school districts.
Karen Yelverton is charming in her role as Ms. Sun. In her first class Ms. Sun tries to restore some decorum to her chaotic classroom. Her tenth-grade students could make sailors blush with their use of profanity.
In an attempt to improve her student’s situation, Ms. Sun tells her students they are going to be putting on the play “Our Country is Good.”
In this play the students portray convicts putting on a play while in jail. Ms. Sun uses the play as a clever tool to teach her students they are only prisoners to their lives because they let themselves be.
As is discussed in the play, this school is literally falling apart. The ceiling has water damage, there are cracks in the tiles and all the bathrooms on the third floor are broken.
The Janitor, played by Jahmeel Powers, is tasked with maintaining the swiftly eroding school. Although he tries his best, he’s quickly nearing retirement and there isn’t anyone to take his place.
When he isn’t cleaning the halls, the Janitor is busy being the eyes and ears of the institution. From his watchfulness, he has become rather wise and is positioned in the play as such. During one of his scenes he espouses some of this wisdom directly to the audience.
“Hush, and they might just learn something,” he said.
Audience member Stephanie VanAistine said, “We need a change in our educational system, and I hope this play can help us get there. I think it is something that needs to be said. I’ve seen films on this subject, but it’s great to see it on the stage.”