Teach Me (Newborn Theatre) 2013 Toronto Fringe Review

I’m glad that I saw Newborn Theatre’s production of Teach Me. I hesitate to say that I enjoyed it, the subject matter is difficult and I doubt that audience enjoyment is what Rachel Gantz had in mind when she wrote it or what Victoria Urquhart had in mind when she directed it.

The play is set in the detention room of an all girls high school. Stacey (played by Jessica Brown) and Lauren (played by Mara Zigler) start talking about Mr. P (played by Robert Rainville) the math teacher, the only male teacher in the school.

The conversation turns to sex and it’s apparently that Stacey is sexually experienced (at least in the mechanics of sex) and Lauren isn’t.

I went to school with someone like Stacey. Bouncy, cute, and funny on the outside, very open about her sexual experiences. Underneath she always seemed angry and scared. The girl I went to school with acted as if she didn’t care that people considered her a slut (a bad thing in the olden days when I was in school) and kept providing hand jobs and blow jobs to the guys who asked – and a lot of guys asked. She tried to kill herself in the spring of Grade 12.

Not Lauren though. Lauren is an innocent, a virgin who is an honours student. She’d doesn’t know how to ‘do’ sex or what it feels like and she wants to. She thinks. She has a crush on her teacher.

I’m not sure that what the girls think they witnessed Mr P doing is a sex crime, but it would be the end of his teaching career.

He comes back to the detention room. Categorically denies the girls’ accusation. Accuses them of taunting and teasing him with their young bodies.

The girls say one thing and Mr.P says another. No matter what’s said they continue to accuse and contradict each other. Who’s telling the truth. Who’s innocent? At one point Stacey says that the truth doesn’t matter. It only matters that the girls are innocent.

What really happened? Who is telling the truth? Is Mr. P using his power as a teacher to coerce the girls or are the girls using their power to threaten Mr. P?

Teach Me raises a lot of questions but doesn’t answer any. The audience is left having to work through the issues on their own and arrive at their own answers, if there are answers, after a very unsettling ending.

Ganz’s excellent script rings true. The dialogue sounds natural. The actors’ emotions seem real. It’s an excellent play.

There is a warning in the program about explicit language, adult content, and nudity. They are all there. If I had a teenaged daughter I’d take her to see Teach Me. Maybe it would open a dialogue about sex.

Details:

  • Teach me is playing at George Ignatieff Theatre (15 Devonshire Place)
  • Performance times:
  • July 06 01:45 PM
  • July 07 03:00 PM
  • July 08 10:15 PM
  • July 10 05:45 PM
  • All individual Fringe tickets are $10 ($5 for FringeKids) at the door (cash only) and go on sale one hour before showtime. 50% of tickets are available in advance and are $11 ($9 + $2 service charge), these can be purchased online at www.fringetoronto.com, by phone at 416-966-1062 ext. 1, or in person during the festival at the Festival Box Office in the parking lot behind Honest Ed’s (581 Bloor St W).
  • Value packs are available if you plan to see at least 5 shows

Please note that there is absolutely no latecomer seating during the Toronto Fringe Festival.