“Something is wrong with our public schools. But it may not be what we’ve been told.” So reads the program cover for Third Rail Repertory Theatre’s world premiere of A Noble Failure
, written by Susan Mach and directed by Philip Cuomo. Those lines prime audiences for a fierce political showdown, perhaps a frazzled veteran teacher like Rosalyn (Jacklyn Maddux) going on long tirades about the Youth and the System. That’s not, however, entirely the case. Yes, there are political elements. Young teacher Darren (John San Nicolas), fresh out of Dartmouth, has students with abnormally high test results, while Rosalyn has to fight with a hardheaded lawyer to keep her job because her students’ scores are low. Her rapport, though, with troubled student Ivan (Rolland Walsh) is strong. Principal Spencer (Bruce Burkhartsmeier) is helpless to aid Rosalyn, his power sapped by Barbara (Maureen Porter), a metrics-obsessed “teacher coach” sent by the district to boost state exam scores. Barbara, and those darn tests, quickly become the villains in A Noble Failure
. Dropouts are now “non-completers,” teachers are “teammates” and testing is “assessing” for Barbara. Heartless lines pour out of her, like “Poverty poverty, blah blah blah,” and Porter’s deadpan delivery of both jargon and criticism are among the production’s many hilarious moments. Other gags are surprisingly scatological. After a PowerPoint mistakenly reads, “Assess, Asses again,” Darren comments, “Maybe your ass-istant should rectal-fy her error.” But when does the laughter stop? For those looking for a rallying cry, A Noble Failure
falls a bit short. But as a comedy, the hallway humor of high school is a welcome distraction from the despair.
1111 SW BroadwayWebsite: thirdrailrep.org