Friday, May 18, 2012

A Child Left Behind

written and performed by Alan Aymie
directed by Paul Stein
presented by The Katselas Theatre Company
Review by Phillip Kelly

Alan Aymie

Earnest is the first word that I would use to describe the new one man show A Child Left Behind. The writer and performer, Mr. Alan Aymie, wants you to understand and care about the failing school system as much as he does, and for the most part his earnestness is infectiousness. "Yes, let's do something! This is terrible!" I thought.  As a viewer, I don't even know where to begin to fix the problem, but that's not the point of the show. In a way this is Aymie's way of finding a catharsis for everything that he's been through as a teacher in Los Angeles and a father and the frustrations that came about while picketing the city when it seemed like no one would listen. He wants us to follow the same journey he's been on, as shared catharsis inspires others to, if not take action, then at least take notice.

Mixing his life as a teacher, his life as a father of a son with Asberger's syndrome and his inner struggle to stand up for his convictions, Aymie has brought these story threads together and crafted a solid show. At it's best it crackles with energy and tension. Any time Aymie goes into hyper drive, moving quickly around the stage as he tells us his day to day life in the school system it's exhausting and you can't help but applaud every school teacher that puts so much of themselves into every child's journey. He paints a thrilling, exhausting and emotionally moving portrait of the modern school teacher. And of the students. There are no bad guys. Or at least the ones that begin that way are given a voice and a dimension so that you understand the complexities of everything that's happening. You can't just point your finger at one person.

Of most interest, and the most telling of who Aymie is, is when we see him try and teach his son. A teacher unable to teach his son the most rudimentary of lessons, like to focus long enough to tie your shoe. It is heart wrenching. Many of his stories are, and he earns these moments, by being honest and vulnerable.

My only problem lies in the first several minutes of the play. Most of the personas Aymie takes on are palpable, if not slightly caricatured, which is fine. However, the earnest tone exceeds patience in the beginning when Aymie takes on some characters (including himself as a child) just for a laugh. It's an awkward moment and too grating an interpretation to find funny or grounded enough to find real.

The show runs a little bit longer and if you get a chance to see it, it's worth it. A portion of the proceeds go to benefit Generation Rescue.

A Child Left Behind
The Beverly Hills Playhouse, 254 South Robertson Blvd, Beverly Hills, CA 90211
Tickets and info: 702 KTC-TKTS (702-582-8587) or online at
The show plays through May 26th.

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