I liked Class. It was realism, so that’s about the most I can say for it. You can’t tap your toes to it and you certainly can’t sing along, and such the evening becomes an exercise in a sort of academic analysis. The central question, at least for this viewer, is this: how well are these people pretending that they are people? Sure, the plot is somewhat interesting — it’s one we’ve all seen before, and one which just as many have likely experienced first-hand — and the dialogue is sometimes inspired — it is highly successful in making quotidian chit-chat into powerful, powerful invective. But a three-person play set in a classroom that doesn’t change more than some internal chair rearrangement, sans music and sans scintillating wordplay, must necessarily be driven by the actors on the stage. In accordance with this, I repeat myself: I liked Class.
The basic plot summary, which endures a slightly-too-long 95 minutes when stretched to full length, can be summed up as “A separated couple meets with their son’s kindergarten teacher and discovers to their horror that he might have a learning deficiency.” Over the course of the meeting, power dynamics are illuminated and wrought hither and thither — between teacher and parent, teacher and student, child and adult, wealthy and poor, blue-collar and white-collar, husband and wife, man and woman, etc. There are moments of genuine surprise in the play, but mainly there are moments of genuine predictability. Sadly, the Bush Theatre in which the class and I saw Class was kept at so high a temperature that many of us were sweating in our seats not from anticipation, but from the fucking heat. Both my classmate and Dr. Essin reflected after we exited that, when a woman got up to leave roughly 60 minutes into the show, they were quite keen to join her. The unpleasantness of the viewing space only twisted the knife of boredom which this show constantly risked through expectations being met. Certainly, those who didn’t like Class can be understood and appreciated in their points of view.
But for me, I luckily had my expectations set so staggeringly low for a night of realism that I believe I actually ended up enjoying it. I wasn’t expecting to be amazed in any way, shape, or form; this was the best possible circumstance in which to view this show. Then, when the adult actors portray children, it’s not so much “How could I have paid good money for this nonsense?” as “Oh, that’s neat!” When the teacher wildly fluctuates in intensity before anything is intense in the first scene of the play, it’s not so much “This is a professional actor?” as “Well, the other two actors are really doing a phenomenal job.” Perhaps I’m going easy on the play — after all, I’m sure anyone with separated parents can’t help but feel something for the actors on the stage. And anyone who’s been in a less-than-successful relationship must empathize with either the man or the woman, right?
Class did a fine job of feeling real. It did its main job well. No, I was not blown away, and no, there was no earned standing ovation. But the story was a story, and I believed the people in it. It was as far from political as any show we’ve recently seen, other than to suggest that we oughtn’t assume people belong to any particular class and act any particularly way as a result. It is not a show that will be remembered for a long time — perhaps it might be as a film, with well-nurtured child actors playing the children instead of the adults — but it was fine for a 95-minute theatrical production. Do I recommend it? If you’re free, yeah. If you’re busy, I say: play hooky for the night.