Carter Lewis is the winner of the Julie Harris Playwriting Award, the State Theatre's Best New American Play Prize, the 1996 and 2001 Cincinnati Playhouse Rosenthal New Play Prize, the 2001 New Dramatist Playwriting Award, the 2003 Blanche and Irving Laurie Foundation Award, and he is a two time nominee for the American Theatre Critics Award. His works include Ordinary Nation, Art Control, A Geometric Digression of the Species, Soft Click Of A Switch, An Asian Jockey In Our Midst, The One-Eyed Man Is King, Golf With Alan Shepard, Picasso Does My Maps, Women Who Steal, Men On The Take, While We Were Bowling, American Storm, Kid Peculiar, and Civil Disobedience. Lewis is currently serving as Playwright-in-Residence at Washington University.
An attractive and youngish, newly divorced teacher named Caitlin moves to small town America in hopes of a fresh start. Her prize pupil is a gifted and imaginative teenaged student named Peck, who possesses an incredible talent for telling and writing stories. His intelligence, his sensitive nature, and his Tourette Syndrome unfortunately make him social awkward at school. He is the student who is harassed, stuffed into lockers and beaten up by his peers. His best friend, and the object of his romantic interest, is a rebellious and brooding classmate named Dora. Dora's smart mouth and negative attitude make her less than desirable as a companion for Peck in the eyes of his teacher Caitlin. Despite his romantic interest in Dora, it seems that while she just wants to be friends with Peck, she begrudges his growing attention to their teacher. As Peck develops a crush on Caitlin, Dora acts out even more.
Without meaning to, Caitlin quickly becomes over-involved in the personal lives of these two students. In a desire to help them, she faces the dilemma of many teachers. One can be a "good teacher" by following the strictest of protocol and professional guidelines. But there can be a cost to her, as a compassionate human being, by not trying to help these two students. Dora and Peck as teenagers lack the ability to see past the rawness of their emotions, and the rashness of their actions place all three in untenable positions. All three have personal stories that are heart wrenchingly revealed as the play unfolds.
Laura Carbonell as Caitlin is quiet believable in her portrayal of the conflict with which her character struggles. We expect teachers to be passionate about their work and their students, and reward those who go the extra mile. Some teachers are detached and professional, never involving themselves in their student's lives. Others nurture and inspire their students by getting inside their minds and lives. The line can be blurred with tremendous success or tremendous failure as a result. The question is whether she allows the lines to be blurred because of her passion as a teacher, or her own personal issues.
Carter W. Lewis is lucky to have Bethany Anne Lind as Dora. This role could be mangled in the hands of a less skilled actress who easily could play her just as the insolent angry teen. Anne possesses good dramatic timing and an intelligent understanding of the role. She and Marshall Pailet as Peck laudably handle their dialogue as the smoothest of banter. Pailet displays strong character acting skills as he transforms himself into the tormented Peck.
With good writing and good acting, this production of The Storytelling Ability of a Boy is sure to make you think long after the curtain has come down. Put on your thinking caps before you come, but don't be surprised if you don't come up with a solution to the moral dilemma contained in this play.
The Storytelling Ability of a Boy will be appearing at the Florida Stage through January 17, 2010. The theater is located in Plaza del Mar, at 262 S. Ocean Blvd. in Manalapan. Performance days/times are normally Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings at 8:00 p.m.; Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday afternoon at 2:00 p.m.; and Sundays at 7:00 p.m.. Tickets and other information may be obtained by calling the box office at (561) 585-3433 or (800) 514-3833, or visiting www.floridastage.org.
Florida Stage is a professional theater, with extensive programs for young artists, hiring Equity and non-Equity performers from across the United States. Florida Stage is a member of the Theatre Communications Group, the League of Resident Theatres, the Florida Professional Theatre Association, the National Alliance for Musical Theatre, and the National New Play Network. They are funded in part by grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the county of Palm Beach Tourist Develop.m.ent Fund and the Florida Arts Council, with generous support from The Shubert Foundation, The Heckscher Foundation for Children, The Duane & Dalia Stiller Charitable Trust, Gulf Stream Lumber, Northern Trust Bank of Florida N.A., Fidelity Federal Bank & Trust, and hundreds of individuals and corporations. The Florida Stage remains the only professional theatre in Southeast Florida producing exclusively new and emerging works.
* Designates member of Actors' Equity Association: the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States.
**Designates member of Stage Directors and Choreographers Society
*** Designates member of United Scenic Artists
Photo: Sig Vision