At the heart of Educating Rita, playing now at Triad Stage in Greensboro, lies an unlikely relationship between a naïve but desperate-to-learn young coed, Rita (Lori Prince), and her bitter, hard-drinking tutor, Frank (Dennis Parlato). The comedic yet thought-provoking show carefully explores the true meaning of “education,” what we sacrifice during the learning process, and the bonds that can be forged in the most unlikely of places.
Lori Prince’s Rita bursts onto the stage in a frenzy of color and chatter. Her working class Liverpool accent and vocabulary are believable and grating. By the end of the show, however, Rita’s clothing, beautifully designed by Kelsey Hunt, and her accent have been subtly softened.
Dennis Parlato’s gruffly funny and sad-around-the-edges Frank changes in his own quiet way as well. Frank develops romantic feelings for Rita and experiences the conflicting disdain and pride of a father as he watches her life transform before his eyes.
The course of their relationship and the changes in their lives are all documented on Marion Williams’ impressively cluttered set of Frank’s office. Full of haphazardly stacked books and magazines, with bottles of alcohol hidden in the shelves, the set seems like mere comedy at first. Later, as Frank’s world falls apart, many books fall off the shelf, accenting the anger and frustration that he feels and allowing the set to serve a real dramatic purpose.
The only real problem here is that both actors are good independently, but their relationship feels a bit forced during the first act. The two characters are just too mismatched, and Parlato’s Frank is a bit too subtle. He makes it too difficult to understand what Frank is going through and how, exactly, he views young Rita. Things pick up significantly by the second act, however, proving this is just one of those stories that it takes a while to settle into. Once it happens, however, there’s no turning back.
SECOND OPINION: Oct. 25th Raleigh, NC Classical Voice of North Carolina review by Lynn Jessup: http://cvnc.org/reviews/2010/102010/TS2.html. (To read the Oct. 21st Triangle Arts & Entertainment preview, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/2010/10/educating-rita-oct-17-nov-7/.)
Triad Stage presents EDUCATING RITA at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 26-28 and Nov. 2-4, 8 p.m. Oct. 29 and 30 and Nov. 5 and 6, and 2 and 7:30 p.m. Oct. 31 and Nov. 7 in the Pyrle Theater at Triad Stage, 232 S. Elm St., Greensboro, North Carolina 27401.
BOX OFFICE: 866/579-TIXX, 336/272-0160, or http://purchase.tickets.com/.
GROUP RATES (10+ tickets): 336/274-0067, ext. 221; firstname.lastname@example.org; or http://www.triadstage.org/tickets/group.php.
VIDEO PREVIEW: http://triadstage.com/mainstage/rita/video1.php.
SCRIPT: http://books.google.com/ (Google Books). DRAMATURGY SITE: http://sites.google.com/site/educatingritatriadstage/.
NOTE: Arts Access, Inc. of Raleigh (http://www.artsaccessinc.org/) will sign-language-interpret the 7:30 p.m. Nov. 2nd performance. (To be seated in the interpreted section, telephone 866/579-TIXX or 336/272-0160.)
The Play: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Educating_Rita (Wikipedia), http://www.willyrussell.com/rita.html (Official-Unofficial Willy Russell website), and http://www.lortel.org/ (Internet Off-Broadway Database).
The Film: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Educating_Rita_(film) (Wikipedia), http://www.willyrussell.com/rita_film.html (Official-Unofficial Willy Russell website), http://www.screenonline.org.uk/film/id/472933/index.html (British Film Institute Screenonline), and http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0085478/ (Internet Movie Database).
The Playwright: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Willy_Russell (Wikipedia), http://www.willyrussell.com/ (Official-Unofficial Willy Russell website), http://www.lortel.org/ (Internet Off-Broadway Database), http://ibdb.com/person.php?id=9207 (Internet Broadway Database), and http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0751516/ (Internet Movie Database).
To read all of Susie Potter’s Triangle Arts & Entertainment reviews online, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/author/susie-q/.