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Friday, Jan. 18, 2013

Education on a Small Stage

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Willy Russell's 1980 drama Educating Rita is a sharply clever look at two ends of the same culture in England. It reflects across the Atlantic with a perspective that is every bit as sharp here as over there. Renaissance Theaterworks explores the drama in its latest production at the Broadway Theatre Center. Cristina Panfilio stars as a young hairdresser. She's low class and lowbrow, but decides to get a serious education so that she can make something of herself; she enrolls in The Open University for non-traditional students. That's where Frank comes in. He's a professor, a career academic who hates the academic culture. And so naturally he's an alcoholic. Here he's played by Jonathan Smoots.

Russell's transformation of both characters is both inspiring and heartbreaking. Director Jenny Wanasek is working on the smallest possible canvas with two people played by two really talented actors. Smoots has appeared in numerous productions with nearly every company in town. Panfilio has appeared in quite a few herself, always managing to capture quite a bit of imagination along the way. The thought of being able to spend some time with the both of them in a studio theater environment is reason enough to see the show. The fact that it also happens to be a really, really good script is just extra.

Renaissance Theaterworks' production of Educating Rita runs Jan. 18-Feb. 10 at the Broadway Theatre Center's Studio Theatre. For ticket reservations, call 414-291-7800.

 

Theatre Happenings

Soulstice Theatre presents its production of the Reduced Shakespeare Company's Completely Hollywood (abridged) Jan. 25-Feb. 9 in the intimacy of the Keith Tamsett Theatre, 3770 S. Pennsylvania Ave. in St. Francis. For ticket reservations, call 414-481-2800.

■ Leslie Fitzwater brings a celebrated French singer to life this month as Skylight Music Theatre presents Edith Piaf Onstage, Jan. 25-Feb. 10 at the Broadway Theatre Center's Cabot Theatre. For ticket reservations, call 414-291-7800.