Torn between two worlds, one where ignorance equals survival and one where knowledge equates to power, a young Liverpool hair dresser attempts to bridge the gap by being tutored in English Literature in Educating Rita. Set in the 70s, the comedy is filled with razor sharp wit and is utterly inspirational.
Laughter sent vibrations through the theater during the opening scene as Frank (Dexter Hamlett), a University teacher , searched behind each book in his library trying to locate a bottle of liquor.
After a brief phone call with his wife, his new student, Rita (Chelsea Mayo) literally blows through the doorway like a colorful whirlwind. Her words are quick and her Liverpudlian accent is thick. She twirls about Frank’s office demanding literary information, commenting on his seemingly erotic art, and begging him to read Rubyfruit Jungle. In her humble opinion, it was destined to be a literary classic.
Rita and Frank’s relationship is a far cry from the typical student teacher narrative; Frank is often under the influence of alcohol and Rita is the equivalent of a high school dropout. Despite their differences, they agreed on the importance of one topic: literature, of which she wants to know everything and he knew very little. The gap between them made for a hilariously uplifting journey.
Over the course of several months, Rita refines her taste, from a reader of romance novels to a student with an insightful analysis of Macbeth. Her desire to continue learning propels her into the world of the college students whom she desperately desires to emulate. Frank, a thoughtful tutor, offers her the way into that world, as he listens to her marital woes, the ridicule she suffered in her community, and her struggle to find her true self.
September 24 – October 25
Peter’s Alley Theatre Productions
Theatre on the Run
3700 S. Four Mile Run Drive
Arlington, VA 22206
Fridays thru Sundays
Details and Tickets
The vintage aesthetic of the set, designed by E-hui Woo, coupled with the mood sequencing light design of Peter Caress, supported the actors’ transitions in a subtle yet profound manor.
As Rita finally achieves her goal of literary comprehension and self-discovery and prepares for her exams, the student has risen above the tutor, and she chooses to abandon Frank.
Under the clever direction of Aly B. Ettman, Mayo and Hamlett showed great comic timing in Willy Russell’s banter-rich scenes. The true beauty of Russell’s work lay in the evolution of those relationships. The obnoxious Rita who burst into the office unannounced adorned in loud colors was radically different from Rita in the final act, perfectly prim and proper in a business suit. Frank encountered his own trajectory, from tipsy teacher to an old man on the brink of losing it all.
Educating Rita by Willy Russell . Directed and produced By Aly B. Ettman . Featuring Dexter Hamlett and Chelsea Mayo . Set Design: E-hui Woo . Lighting Design: Peter Caress . Costume Design: Aly B. Ettman . Stage Manager and Sound Design: David G. Jung. Produced by Peter’s Alley Theatre Productions. Reviewed by Britt Oliver.