Musical company

M. PARENT at Lyric Stage Company Of Boston

On a cold Boston Sunday afternoon, a mostly white audience takes their seats in the Lyric Stage Company theater. The set in front of them is a classroom with an orange and white tiled floor and a large orange frame at the back of the stage. The show begins and Mauriece Emmanuel Parent, black actor and former teacher, enters. He shows up and starts the show with a “class turnout”. He asks the audience to “raise your hand if you’ve ever had a teacher”. Of course, everyone raises their hand. He then asks “raise your hand if you’ve ever had a male teacher”. Fewer and fewer spectators raise their hands. Finally, he asks “raise your hand if you’ve ever had a black teacher”. Four or five people raise their hands. Over the next ninety minutes, Parent recounts his experiences as a teacher trying to make it as an actor in Boston.

The screenplay, written by Melinda Lopez, has a good balance between comedy and seriousness. We discover the difficulties of Parnet as a teacher. He first started his teaching career trying to be a cool and fun teacher. He tells us that originally his students sat in a circle, no desks, just chairs and learned. This leads to a lack of certain boundaries with his students, which eventually leads to him becoming stricter.

The overall performance was very simplistic and relied on the audience to use their imaginations and their own experiences to immerse themselves in Parent’s stories. Four chairs were used as the centerpiece, Parent moved them around to help set the scene. The lighting, designed by Karen Perlow, was also simple. It felt like a classroom, except for a few moments when Parent recited excerpts from other works and the lighting focused on him.

Parent gave a strong overall performance. There were times when it was hard to tell if he missed a line on purpose or just accidentally. There were also a few too many moments where I felt like a story was left hanging.

M. PARENT is touring with the Lyric Stage Company in Boston until February 6th. Tickets are available at lyricstage.com. The show is directed by Megan Sandberg-Zakin with costume design by Yao Chen and sound engineered and composed by Arshan Gailus. Elizabeth Yvette Ramirez is production manager with Sarah Bord as assistant manager.

Photo by Mark S. Howard