Theater Info for the Washington DC region

Paul VI High School Up The Down Staircase

By • Nov 19th, 2007 • Category: Cappies

CJ Nucciarone and Charlotte Schaner Shouting, confusion, wads of paper landing everywhere. Sound familiar? It’s the first day of school and one of the first scenes in Paul VI’s production of Up the Down Staircase, adapted from Bel Kaufman’s novel of the same name. The novel was adapted into a movie in 1967, and won awards a various film festivals.

Up the Down Staircase is the story of first year teacher Sylvia Barrett (Charlotte Schaner), a recent college graduate with a passion for the classics, who has come to teach at an inner-city high school in 1964. Throughout the play, she struggles with whether or not she’s really having an impact on the students, constant struggles with an absurd and bureaucratic school administration, and an implied relationship with another teacher, Paul Barringer (Jason Donahoe).

Charlotte Schaner played Sylvia Barrett with command. She expressed the character’s wide range of emotions, and was believable. She stood out particularly when she argued with the clear antagonist, the stern and irate administrator J.J. McHabe (Drake Johnson). Their relationship, though dysfunctional, was both funny and at times eye-opening.

A particular standout was Fiona Torres as Sylvia’s fellow teacher and mentor, Beatrice Schachter. Her portrayal was hilarious, and believable. Her physical acting was spot on, and her New York accent never wavered. She knew how to reign in her emotions for serious scenes, and always stayed in character.

The ensemble of students brought energy and life to the show. Though there was mostly comedy, there were moments when each student had his or her own life-changing moment. Their spirit really added to the production.

The sound had a few mishaps, but was more than made up for with excellent design, especially in the hilarious ‘assembly’ scenes. The intricate lighting was admirable, but was sometimes puzzling.

At times, some of the blocking was distracting, but the way the ensemble effectively delivered their lines outshone those few occurences.

Overall, Paul VI’s production of Up The Down Staircase was entertaining and engaging, and was a commendable performance.

by Leslie Berkowitz of Lake Braddock

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