Sex and Education is a crackling battle of the sexes. In one corner, a teenage Philistine revels in his athletic prowess, despising all else. And in the opposite corner, a whip-smart, feed-up-to-here English teacher finally has her chance to knock some sense into him. Expect lots of hitting below the belt as they pound on each other’s vulnerabilities.
Also expect lots of strong profanity and sexual references. Parents, this is R-rated entertainment. But if your teen is mature enough to handle it, you’ll have great discussions afterwards about the meaning and purpose of an education.
Playwright LISSA LEVIN, a 25-year veteran of TV comedy, uses her comedic gifts to imbue the dialogue with a superb sense of timing, ably reinforced by Director ANDREW BARNICLE. All three actors reveal ever-deepening characters that cleverly play against the stereotyped settings that introduce them.
High school English teacher Miss Edwards (played by STEPHANIE ZIMBALIST) is giving her class of seniors the last test of the school year. For 25 years, she’s been casting the pearls of grammar and literature before her students, who with few exceptions proceeded to trample them underfoot with their bored indifference.
For 25 years she’s been putting up with arrogant jock stars like Joe (WILLIAM REINBOLD), who know they can fail no class and do no wrong. And here he is, defying her instructions and trying to pass a note (we’re in the pre-Twitter past) to his cheerleader girlfriend Hannah (ALLISON LINDSEY.)
Miss Edwards grabs Joe’s note and reads it. It’s packed with profanity, with some particularly crude words describing Miss Edwards. The note is also Joe’s attempt to convince Hannah to have sex with him. (That is, the kind of sex that even President Clinton would have to admit is sex.)
As Miss Edwards contemplates the note, something in her snaps. No longer is she afraid of coming out on the losing end of school principal vs teenage athlete demigod. She’s quitting. In a few days, she’ll be a real estate agent making real money.
And so Miss Edwards insists that Joe rewrite the note into several sentences that at least pretends to be coherent. She threatens Joe, quite credibly, with a future considerably less bright if he doesn’t stay put in her classroom and do her bidding. And she hurls Joe’s profanity back in his face, no longer caring that it would ordinarily be a firing offense.
But Joe, though trapped, is not cowed. He has his own grievances. He’s spent 12 years sitting in classrooms, like the one Miss Edwards has just presided over, and it all seems like a colossal waste of his time. (Remember the scene in Peggy Sue Got Married when Peggy Sue’s once again a teenager in algebra class, but this time around she realizes she’ll never, ever use algebra afterwards?)
Joe knows he’s not wasting time honing his skills on the basketball court. He’s been rewarded by accolades, a hefty university scholarship, and the attentions of a bright cheerleader who has a sharp mind to go with the pretty face…even if her legs have thus far remained crossed.
And so the battle is engaged with an honest, let-your-hair-down exchange that often doesn’t occur in a relationship until the break up. And something wonderful emerges that hopefully occurs in our schools under less fraught circumstances.
Sex and Education continues through Sunday, March 16. Performances are Thursdays and Fridays at 8 p.m.; Saturdays at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m.; and Sundays at 2 p.m. Ticket prices range from $20 to $49. The Colony Theatre is at 555 North Third Street (at Cypress), next to the Burbank Town Center Mall.