Company: Sew and Sew Productions, Los Angeles, CA
Venue: 2 - MTC Up the Alley
The true stories of Jack Fry’s students are often heartbreaking.
The "teacher with a heart of gold struggles with incorrigible students"
story is a well-worn trope. What makes writer/performer Jack Fry's story
different is that it's true - and he brings along the documentation to
prove it in his solo show.
This is the tale of his time at a South Central L.A. elementary school,
where issues like lockdowns, armed students, and dealing with the
Kafkaesque enforcers of the "No Child Left Behind" policy are all part
of a day's work. "I get what's known as 'combat pay'," he quips.
The true stories of Fry's students are often horribly tragic, but in his
telling, he occasionally teeters into maudlin territory. He also has a
tendency to go for broad jokes through the 90-minute show, some of which
fall pretty flat.
There is much to recommend here, though. Fry is clearly a very talented
performer - his characters are all distinct and convincingly portrayed.
And there are moments of agonizing heartbreak here. In the interest of
avoiding spoilers, I can only say that Fry's students, already so
profoundly disadvantaged, face hardships no child should have to. His
performance in these key scenes is wrenching.
Teachers enjoying their summer holidays will particularly appreciate
They Call Me Mister Fry
. It'll likely make them feel great about going
back to the relative calm of a Manitoba classroom come September.