Rabble Crew Productions’ Writing Miss Clark’s Résumé, helmed by the writer and director sister team of Kelly and Emily Canavan is a sprightly delight. With the shaping of the show all in the family, this piece is a labor of love that’s paid off in spades.
Devora Zack’s peppily played Miss Clark holds court in English class, where she buddies around with her students, particularly lovebirds Eric (Noah Schaefer) and Alicia (Shar-Nay Gaston), putting them atease and bolstering their confidence. Despite her ex-beau Charlie (Lorenzo Jones) teaching a few doors down, the school is her comfort zone. She has trouble sleeping at home. She starts to fall ill and feels ignored at emergency rooms and hospitals, but in her classroom she is queen.
Clark is a classic too-cool-for-school type. Friendly with her students, Zack has a great ease as she commands the room, flying around the stage on a rolling stool, keeping tabs on her students’ every vocabulary triumph and defining stutter. Zack has the role on which the show hinges, but she is supported by a strong ensemble cast. The young charges in her flock, Alicia, Eric, Darin (Dwayne Allen), Natalie (Nikki Frias), Shirelle (Alexis Graves), and Cesar (Marlowe Vilchez), are all energetic, snarky, and biting. In other words, they are believably adolescent.
The group throws quick barbs back and forth, with each actor displaying great comic timing. What’s more, they all appear to be really listening to one another. Emily Canavan’s direction is crisp. Though the set is sparse, the use of space is keen and the dialogue flies by at a good pace.
There are a few small holes in Kelly Canavan’s script (a line about saving cookies for later, quickly followed by an insult about their flavor), and the opening scenes are a bit choppy and crammed with exposition, but the base is solid, and rife with sharp callbacks.
In one scene, an ER doctor (Richelle Brown) dismisses Clark’s long list of symptoms, harkening back to the way women in the 19th century were diagnosed with hysteria or neurosis if they asked too many questions. It’s building on a vocabulary word the students spout out a few scenes earlier. It’s called up again subtly when Dr. Myrtle, played compassionately by Julia Frank, listens as Clark describes feeling unheard by her previous doctors, referencing the 1892 Charlotte Perkins Gilman short story “The Yellow Wallpaper,” a piece in which the female narrator is both coddled and ignored as she slowly loses her mind and claws her way out of mental and physical confinement.
The end result of these references is a nuanced statement on what it can feel like to be a patient today- often unheard, uncared about, and underserved. A third doctor, played well by David Berkenbilt, gives Clark a real listen, but by that point she has felt so out of control that she flips and tries to dismiss him.
Writing Miss Clark’s Résumé
by Kelly Canavan
Mountain – Mount Vernon United Methodist Church
900 Massachusetts Ave NW
Washington, DC 20001
Details and tickets
Ironically, it’s this dependence that creates her demise. I won’t tell you how, but Eric and Alicia take the benefits of being teacher’s pets to a whole new, conniving level. And the results are catastrophic for Clark’s already disintegrating life. Zack shines in this moment, as do Schaefer and Gaston as they reveal what Eric and Alicia had in mind all along.
The story ties up well, and leaves the audience in puzzled wonderment over how Clark, who seemed so right, could become mixed up in something so, so wrong. Is she driven by desire? By desperation? I suggest you see this production and decide for yourself.