World Premiere of Brian Dykstra’s new play, Education, focuses on the escalating fallout from a high school student’s confrontational art project.
By: Patrick Christiano
March 15, 2018: Theater provocateur Brian Dykstra returns to 59E59 Theaters with Education, an engaging new play about free-speech and artistic expression, directed by Margarett Perry. When a high school student, Max, is suspended for attempting to burn an American flag for an art project, he colludes with his girlfriend Bekka, a slam poet, to get back at the authorities. As the two students, played by Wesley T. Jones and Jane West, fight to express themselves, they wreak havoc on the small Ohio town with their inflammatory actions.
Dykstra is a prolific award-winning playwright, who delights in taking on challenging themes. With Education he presents a disarming look at artistic expression crashing head-on with religious suppression. The thought-provoking dialogue is sharp, smart, and witty; however, the characters talk over each other and their struggles seem to be over semantics instead of real issues. The elements just don’t add up, and the deck feels stacked, so little resonates authentically.
The production doesn’t serve the play’s best interests, if that is even possible. Much of the action is played for laughs, missing layers and nuance, with the actors appearing to spout off prepared responses. There is no real tension, giving the conflicts a tone of carefully structured debates instead of emotion filled tirades. The result, while often funny, never feels organic.
Still,the evening makes an amusing comment on a timely topic and will probably generate some debate. Dykstra wants you to think he is taking on a stimulating issue, but his play is all smoke and mirrors.
Produced by the Sanguine Theatre Company, the cast also features Matthew Boston, Bruce Faulk, and Elizabeth Meadows Rouse.
Education is now playing at 59E59 Theaters, 59 East 59th Street, between Park and Madison Avenues, for a limited engagement through Sunday, April 8. The performance schedule is Tuesday – Friday at 7:15 PM; Saturday at 2:15 PM & 7:15 PM; Sunday at 2:15 PM. Single tickets are $25 – $35 ($24.40 for 59E59 Members). To purchase tickets, call Ticket Central at (212) 279-4200 or visit www.59e59.org. Photography: Carol Roseg