Review "EDUCATING RITA": Pygmalion Tale Retitled 'Dressing Rita'

The only reason I passed calculus in college was a tutor.  A very, very, very good looking tutor named Mike.  He had extreme patience and a transfixing beard with a patch of hairs that swirled in a circle.  In between, the blah, blah, blah, x+y= something, something, I heard in his voice genuine kindness and hope.  He believed in ME. And because he was convinced I could be better and smarter in math, I multiplied into his equation!  Shattered Globe presents EDUCATING RITA.  A hairdresser wants to broaden her mind.  She is assigned to a literary professor.  She is driven by her curiosity and free-spirited nature. He is stunted by booze and cynicism. Her fresh interpretation of poetry resurrects his interest in teaching.  The tutorial has both student and instructor under the influence. The higher education pursuit changes everything. EDUCATING RITA is a Pygmalion tale that could be retitled ‘Dressing Rita.’   READ ON OR LISTEN to Audio Podcast at ITUNES Chicago Theatre Reviews for Week of July 1st Narrated by Joshua Volkers.

Educating_Rita_5[1].jpgJoanne Melville (costume designer) showcases a plethora of chic, modern dresses that would make Dreamhouse Barbie jealous.  And Whitney White (Rita) is the perfect model in the fashion show.  Unfortunately, the wardrobe changes add to the length of the scene transitions and the overall sluggishness of the production. Director Richard Corley facilitates time progression with a series of scenes going to blackout.  The bad news is the blackouts are awkwardly long.  The good news is sound designer Christopher Kriz provides high energy, vibrant music.  Scenes lull with a blah, blah, blah Blake’s poem + blossoms = womanly parts something, something. Blackout.  Dance music.  It’s like an alarm clock set to a pop station. I shake off the drowsies, be-bop in my seat and eagerly await White’s newest ensemble.         

Educating_Rita_6[1] kevin viol.jpgWhite and Brad Woodard (Frank) have a typical student-teacher relationship.  He pontificates.  She argues intently until she doesn’t.  The problem is they are suppose to have an atypical relationship.  Without the unique chemistry, White and Woodward become any other student-teacher.  It works.  It just doesn’t crackle.  I take pleasure in a nice, cozy campfire.  But I really enjoy a big, raging bonfire.  I couldn’t possibly doze off if sparks are flying and a volatile threat of being burned is looming.  EDUCATING RITA is a toasted marshmallow pleasure.  To be riveting enough for a hog roasting feast, unfortunately, some of the dresses need to be sacrificed as kindling.  And White and Woodward need to strike a match that ignites.  Because in the end, I’ve forgotten all the calculus but I do remember Mike.  Basking in the glow of an engaging tutor smolders on for decades.   

      In a class all his own, here’s what Chicago Theatre Addict had to say.Running Time:  Two hours and forty minutes includes an intermissionAt Chicago Dramatists, 1105 W. ChicagoWritten by Willy RussellDirected by Richard CorleyThursdays, Fridays, Saturdays at 8pmSundays at 3pmThru August 14thBuy Tickets Production photography courtesy of Kevin Viol.

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