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|A CurtainUp Review
P. S. 69
Have chairs will travel. With a set consisting of 3 chairs and a cast of one versatile and funny actress, P.S. 69 is indeed one of those easy to mount shows that could go anywhere. In fact, it has already traveled from a limited run at Walker Space downtown to another short run at another modest venue further uptown.
What Susan Jeremy and Mary Fulham refer to as a "One-Teacher Extravaganza" hovers between the genres of stand-up comedy and one-woman play. Given its focus on one young woman's trajectory as a substitute teacher through the chalkboard jungle of a culturally diverse Brooklyn elementary school P.S. 69 might do as well at teachers' meetings as a conventional stage. Since this brief saga's heroine, Molly DeKowski, is also gay, it might also seed more potential gigs at Gay and Lesbian events.
The plot -- and the one-person narrative does have a plot with a theme -- begins with Molly's first gig as a substitute teacher. It reaches a dramatic crisis when her life at P.S. 69 intersects with her life outside school and climaxes with Molly's finding her key to self-assurance as well as romance. Molly metamorphoses between her own persona and the twenty-two characters who are part of her story: an assortment of teachers, students, parents as well as her New-Age friend Jasper who persuades her to try her luck (and pick up some much-needed cash) as an amateur stripper at a joint called the Virgin Vault which is raided by a NYPD squad that includes the hostile mother of one of Molly's favorite little pupils.
Jeremy's stylized body movements and adept voice and dialect changes bring most of these characters to vivid life and for the most part escape being caricature. The strip act and other comic moments are balanced by the sadly true-to-life observations on an under-funded school system where too many children are given Ritalin instead of individual attention from dedicated teachers.
The strong performance and many memorable characters notwithstanding, P. S. 69 falls short of the broader appeal and greater depth of another currently playing one-woman play, The Syringa Tree. Its end has a chopped off feel even though the fifty-minute length is all that's called for. That fifty minutes also enables anyone living within a half-hour bus ride from the theater to see P.S. 69 with a single swipe of their Metro card.