Wednesday, April 22, 2009

GableStage: No Child (3 reviews)

   Nilaja Sun in <em>No Child</em> GableStage opened Nilaja Sun's No Child on April 18th.

GableStage Artistic Director Joe Adler directs Carbonell Award winner Lela Elam in this tour-de-force one woman show.

Brandon K. Thorp reviewed for the Miami New Times:
Too much has been said about Lela Elam for this statement to make much of an impact, but here it goes: Lela Elam is a great actress. And though her current play, No Child..., probably has a profound message to share — something about hopes and dreams and the innate potential of children languishing in our inner-city public schools — Elam was what I thought about as I walked from the theater to my car, and Elam was what my date and I discussed on our ride home.
There are two reasons for this. One: Elam is an overwhelming talent, and No Child... is a one-woman showpiece designed for such overwhelming talents, because its lone actress must inhabit no fewer than 16 different characters. Two: If it weren't such a showpiece, No Child... would be a pretty awful play.
To say...(it)...bears an unfortunate resemblance to certain older plays and movies would be an understatement. In fact, if you've seen Blackboard Jungle/To Sir, with Love/Class of 1984/The Principal/Stand and Deliver/Lean on Me/Class of 1999/Sister Act II/Dangerous Minds/The Substitute/Freedom Writers/The Class, you've seen this. I'd rank No Child... right between Dangerous Minds and Stand and Deliver, though it's funnier than either and a lot less unsettling.
Did I mention Lela Elam? Because apart from a smart, spare set by Tim Connelly — a grimy, archetypal public schoolroom, half hall and half classroom, stretched improbably skyward in a way that suggests Gothic horror as much as social studies — she is the whole damn show. And what a show.
Christine Dolen reviewed for the Miami Herald:
It's one thing for an actor-playwright to perform a multicharacter piece crafted from her own experiences and tailored to her talents, as Sun did with No Child or April Yvette Thompson did with Liberty City. It's quite another for a different performer to step into those many pairs of shoes, becoming a test both for the new actor and for the strength of the play itself. At GableStage, both the inspired Elam and No Child earn a solid A.
With director Joseph Adler's clarifying guidance helping her make (and keep) each character distinct, Elam changes on a dime from the enthusiastic Ms. Sun to blinged-out Shondrika to Star Wars fan Chris to a kid named Phillip, whose Our Country's Good line readings change before our very eyes thanks to Ms. Sun's canny direction.
Elam is equally compelling as the no-nonsense, get-it-done principal Mrs. Kennedy; a humorless Jamaican security guard, who does battle with Shondrika's bling; and the wise Janitor Baron, the No Child narrator who has seen teachers, kids and educational trends come and go in his half century at the school.
Ron Levitt reviews for Florida Media News:
...No Child, the tour de force production at GableStage starring Lela Elam, has to be given a straight "A."
Elam was directed by the steady hand of Joseph Adler, the guiding light of GableStage at the Biltmore, who is recognized for his theatrical brilliance and his uncanny ability to showcase plays which earn respect...
Leave it to Joe Adler to put together a professional technical team. The bare school corridor and classroom designed by Tim Connelly are the A-1 backdrops for Jeff Quinn’s lighting and the always top-of-the-class sound guru Matt Corey.
No Child runs through May 17 at GableStage.

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