An old-fashioned romantic triangle with a modern, film-school spin.



Quentin Mare, Stephen Friedrich & Lilli Stein (Photo: Darren Cox)



By Joel Benjamin


Lisa Lewis’s Schooled, part of the Fringe Encore Series at the Soho Playhouse, is a modern take on a romantic triangle, one in which no one emerges a winner.

Claire (Lilli Stein) and Jake (Stephen Friedrich) are students in the film class of Andrew (Quentin Maré), a past his prime script writer who still has connections in the higher echelons of the movie business.  Andrew has control over who gets a prestigious grant which will allow the recipient to finish writing a movie. Jake, from a privileged background, is probably the better writer, but Claire, who truly needs the grant to produce her script, excites the romantic urges of the middle aged self-appointed lothario Andrew. Will Andrew give the grant to the more talented guy or to the object of his slightly pervy desires? Complicating matters is the fact that Claire and Jake are lovers.

In true New York Fringe Festival fashion, the stage, divided into three distinct areas, was sparsely furnished (designed by Tyler M. Perry) to indicate Andrew’s office, the White Horse Tavern and Claire’s apartment. The costumes by Christopher Metzger captured the aging hipness of Andrew, the mussed preppy-ness of Jake and the poor, but striving to look good quality of Claire. Evan Roby’s lighting kept clear where we were at all times: office, tavern or flat.

The play begins with world-weary, middle aged Andrew holding court in his office, sparring with Jake about a script he submitted and, subsequently, with Claire whom he eventually persuades to join him for drinks at the White Horse Tavern in Greenwich Village, where legendary writers drank out their sad lives. Jake has already noticed that Claire was getting more than her fair share of attention in Andrew’s class. Jake also believes that Claire’s talent no way equals his, causing him to push her into a corner, emotionally blackmailing her by insisting they move in together and asking her to move to L.A. where he feels he’d do better on the West Coast, particularly when he senses she is about to get the grant money.

Much of the play takes place in conversations between Andrew and Claire sitting at a table at the bar. We learn that Andrew is married and a dad and probably has a history of seducing coeds. Claire subtly uses her feminine wiles to get Andrew on her side—even teaching Andrew the fine points of darts—all the while denying it. When it comes down to actually sleeping with Andrew, knowing that this will clinch her production grant, complications arise pitting all three together in an emotional and professional confrontation that, we find out in a short coda, takes years to get over. Each is left wounded. However, they all seem to adjust to their lives after being driven apart, each succeeding in surprising ways in love and show business.

The three actors were properly low-keyed, detailed and committed to Ms. Lewis’s work, finding, under the direction of James Kautz, all the moments, never over-doing, their every look in tune with the play.

Lewis clearly knows all the film school jargon, giving Schooled its special intimacy. Romantic triangles are frequent subjects of plays, but Schooled, in its small-scaled way is a gem of the genre.


Schooled (October 9 – 17, 2015)

New York International Fringe Festival Encores Series

Soho Playhouse

15 Vandam Street, between Avenue of the Americas & Varick Street, New York, NY

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Running time: 90 minutes, no intermission