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Review: ABCD at Barrington Stage Company

Review: ABCD at Barrington Stage Company

World Premier Examines Cheating: A Choice, A Mistake, or The Only Option.

Directed by Daniel J. Bryant, this new play from May Treuhaft-Ali is a brutal dissection of the inequities in our public school system. When the joys and challenges of learning are reduced to a multiple-choice test, is cheating the only option?

Review: ABCD at Barrington Stage Company
Maribel Martinez, Brandon St. Clair, Melvin Abston
and Torée Alexandre.
Photo by Daniel Rader.

ABCD features Melvin Abston as Ellis, Justin Ahdoot as Bilal, Torée Alexandre as Tamara Gardner, Juri Henley-Cohn as Ibrahim, Maribel Martinez as Mika Ramos, Chavez Ravine as Joanna Krueger, Pearl Shin as Sunghee and Brandon St. Clair as Davon Lawrence.

At two very different public schools in the same city - an underserved school on the verge of shutdown, and an elite magnet program nearby - pressure to perform well on standardized tests drives students and teachers to compromise their integrity.

Review: ABCD at Barrington Stage Company
Torée Alexandre, Brandon St. Clair and Justin Adhoot.
Photo by Daniel Rader

Now by no means is cheating in schools a new or novel topic. One might say that it is somewhat normal. Many will recall that only a few years ago, media channels were filled with stories related to Thirty-three parents of college applicants are accused of paying more than $25 million between 2011 and 2018 to the organizer of the scheme, who used part of the money to fraudulently inflate entrance exam test scores and bribe college officials.

It was not the glitz and glam of Hollywood celebrities that inspired Treuhaft-Ali. It was more the words spoken by her classmate at their high school graduation. "I feel guilty because I don't deserve any of this. And neither do any of you. We received an outstanding education at no charge based solely on our performance on a test we took when we were eleven-year-olds, or four-year-olds. We received superior teachers and additional resources based on our status as 'gifted', while kids who naturally needed those resources much more than us wallowed in the mire of a broken system."

In ABCD, the issue is brought down to a far more common, every day, level. One that I imagine most of the audience can relate to, but juxtaposition and interweaving seemingly disparate cultures. The piece provides a close look at the means, the motive, and opportunity. While ABCD does not offer the level of intrigue of say an episode of Law and Order, it is highly relevant at a time where broken systems abound.

Review: ABCD at Barrington Stage Company
Chavez Ravine and Juri Henley-Cohn.
Photo by Daniel Rader

Although there are brief moments when some members of the cast seem to break character, the ensemble is believable, convincing, and strong. This is particularly true of Justin Ahdoot as Bilal, Juri Henley-Cohn as his father, Ibrahim, Chavez Ravine as Joanna Krueger, and Pearl Shin as Sunghee.

The creative team includes Baron E. Pugh (scenic designer), April M. Hickman (costume designer), Kevin Iega Jeff (movement director), Jason Lynch (lighting designer), Fabian Obispo (composer and sound designer). Kyra Button (production stage manager). McCorkle Casting LTD/ Pat McCorkle (casting). any school setting, transform to transport the players to multiple locations throughout the 94 minute (presented with no intermission) including a bodega, and a cross-town bus.

Review: ABCD at Barrington Stage Company
Pearl Shin and Justin Ahdoot.
Photo by Daniel Rader

Kudos to Artistic Director, Julie Ann Boyd and the team at Barrington Stage Company for giving yet another new promising playwright and their highly relevant work life.

Performances are Tuesday through Saturday at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday at 3:00 p.m. St. Germain Stage at the Sydelle and Lee Blatt Performing Arts Center (36 Linden Street) in Pittsfield. Tickets: $25-$59.

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Marc Savitt has a life-long passion for, and association with the performing arts, particularly Musical Theatre. He has performed with choral groups in several US cities, and London, and appears on... (read more about this author)

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