The Lesson | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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The Lesson, Elephant Man Theater Company. It's hard to know what Eugene Ionesco meant by this tale of a tutor so incensed at an unreceptive pupil that he resorts to violence. But a director must decide at what point we should begin to suspect that bloodshed is imminent. Should we heed the professor's housekeeper when she warns of "calamity" arising from education?

Not in this production, we shouldn't. The way director Alexander T. Jameson scores the dialogue, its initial pristine formality lulls us into preoccupation with the intellectual content, not the emotional nuances. When only a short time later the meek professor begins spewing forth linguistic analysis in a fury of didactic passion while his pupil whimpers in pain, we're as bewildered as we are frightened. How and when did the emotional stakes escalate? We don't know--and that's precisely Ionesco's point.

Luda Jameson's intense portrayal of the hapless student would command attention even if she weren't seated center stage for most of the action wearing a frilly yellow dress, her hair in two ponytails that quiver like a spaniel's ears. Fortunately David Schultz's heroic vocal prowess allows him to assume dominance when the script requires the professor to become the focus. This is only the Elephant Man Theater's second production, but it's smart enough to make us anticipate the third.

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