By Matthew Bramlett |Arts & Entertainment Editor|
The CSUSB Theatre Arts department brought a story of artistic inspiration in a Bronx high school to life March 9 in the Performing Arts Theater.
The department performed “No Child,” the award-winning and semi-autobiographical play by Nilaja Sun that focuses on one young woman’s struggle to get a rowdy bunch of inner city teenagers interested in theater arts.
The comedic play, directed by Dr. Kathryn Ervin, was originally a one-woman show, with Sun playing all the parts of the students and teachers at the fabled Malcolm X High School.
This time around, Ervin decided on a cast of 21 actors in order to create a more dynamic setting, as well as to showcase how monumental and insane Sun’s job really was.
The play centers on Ms. Sun, a young and idealistic actress-turned-teacher who is tasked to whip her students into shape by putting on a play within the play, “Our Country’s Good.”
At first, the students resist (and hilariously compare ‘thespian’ to ‘lesbian’), but eventually utilize what they learn through Ms. Sun’s teachings in each of their own lives.
The infamous No Child Left Behind Act, which strangled the arts in public schools, serves as an ominous backdrop throughout the play.
One of the themes of “No Child” is its use of theater as an exit from the harsh realities of the Bronx and a beacon of hope in an otherwise grim future.
“No Child” covers all the bases of the typical downtrodden high school: apathetic and combative students, passive teachers, metal detectors and oppressive security guards.
A particular incident between one of the students, Shondrika (Je’Lisa Rucker) and the school rent-a-cop (Jamie Jacob) was one of the funnier moments in the play. Rucker and Jacob played off each other seamlessly and the chemistry between the two was evident.
Ms. Sun was played with a wonderful realness by Victoria Estrada. Estrada aptly showed how exasperated and seemingly outmatched her character was against the students of room 10F.
Ashley Storey played Baroness, the wise janitor who served as the chorus of the play. Baroness’ omnipresence throughout the play and her folksy been-there-done-that demeanor was one of the play’s highlights.
Kevin Ezeh played Jerome, the de facto ‘leader’ of the class who is a little more than he lets on. Ezeh played the perfect foil to Estrada’s Ms. Sun and the banter between the two was highly entertaining.
Other notable actors include Yutaka Higa and James Hazel as Phillip and Chris, the only two students who actually want to be in a play. Alexandra Juarez played the exasperated Ms. Tam and Angelica Mahabir played the intense and overbearing principal, Mrs. Kennedy.
The play runs for seven performances from March 9–18. Performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m.
Tickets are $15 for general admission, $12 for seniors, military and non-CSUSB students. Tickets for CSUSB students are $6 with a valid ID.
Tickets can be purchased at the Performing Arts Center box office or online at theatre.csusb.edu