Saturday Oct 20

Charles-Evered Class, by Charles Evered.
Reviewed by Founding Editor-in-Chief, Ken Robidoux

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Class is the story of Sarah & Elliott. Sarah is a starlet in her early 20’s, a young Angelina Jolie type or as Evered puts it, “a pre-drunk Lindsay Lohan”—she’s an action-adventure star who’s known for blasting bad guys with her “skorcon cyberblaster” and whose face graces the sides of busses in Manhattan. Elliott is a middle-aged acting coach, one of the very best, who once had a promising career as an actor until something went horribly wrong. And Class is the story of what happens when Sarah, determined to be taken seriously as an actress at least once in her life, shows up at Elliott’s acting studio looking for a mentor. At least that’s the initial set-up. But if you’re a fan of Evered’s work you know the real story is much more complex. Replete with humor, intimacy, tragedy and hope, Class is yet another in the string of outstanding plays written by Evered, one of the brightest and most sought-after wordsmiths on the American playwriting scene.

A hallmark of Evered’s Class is a word I hesitate to use as it comes with so many negative connotations, but here goes. Evered’s work is commercial. That’s right, I said it: commercial. Class is a two act play with two characters. Inexpensive to produce (and at a time in history when money for the arts is at a real premium), it takes place, in its entirety, in one room. There are no set changes, few costume changes, no special effects,  no plot-furthering peripheral characters, no actors roaming the seats and entering stage from the theater lobby, etc. Nothing whatsoever to distract the audience from what’s actually occurring on the stage.

To write a successful play that doesn’t rely on any of these devices Evered, instead, relies on dialogue and character development. How refreshing, right? One of the things that makes Evered’s work so powerful, and Class is no exception, is his ability to distill dialogue down to its most relevant essence. The words Evered gives his characters to speak are not just there to serve the story, and are rarely if ever as stilted and robotic as some playwrights are prone to create. They are natural, organic, and built from a foundation of listening. His characters actually listen to each other as they speak and then respond accordingly. I mean no disrespect to the acting community when I say this, but Evered’s words could be performed by nearly any actor with even the slightest bit of talent with positive results, but in the hands of a true thespian they will take the audience to a transcendent place. Well performed, an Evered play allows you to forget you’re sitting in a theater watching a play.

I recently went to the premier of Class at the Cape May Stage in New Jersey. It starred Heather Matarazzo (Princess Diaries, The L Word) and Thaao Penghlis (Days of Our Lives, Mission Impossible), and was directed by the brilliant “Yale Mafia” member Roy Steinberg. Mr. Steinberg understood completely what Evered was going for and its nearly month long run was completely sold out.

Actor, writer, director Eric Stoltz once said, “Evered is a gifted, highly sophisticated writer whose work is full of fierce intelligence and wit. The stories he writes are enigmatic, complex and sometimes combative. The only thing more enjoyable than reading his work is acting in it." I wholeheartedly agree…except the acting thing, for which I’ll take Stoltz’ word. And I would submit that the reason Stoltz feels this way is because Evered writes dialogue and develops characters that matter. The list of top-echelon actors that have been in Evered’s plays since he was a student at the prestigious Yale School of Drama attests to this fact.

It would not be difficult to conceive of outstanding performances of Class either on Broadway or at your local community theater. It will most certainly have staying power. The characters and dialogue are compelling, refreshing, and once viewed are hard to forget. It is economical to produce and has high impact for the audience. And it is the kind of play that will run for years. I hate to use the phrase “instant classic,” but it is what it is. Enjoy!

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Charles Evered took his undergraduate degree from Rutgers-Newark and an MFA from Yale University, where he studied with director George Roy Hill. Mr. Evered has won several awards for his writing including The Berrilla Kerr Award, The Alfred P. Sloan Fellowship at The Manhattan Theatre Club, The Chesterfield/Amblin Fellowship, The Edward Albee/William Flanagan Fellowship, The Bert Linder Fellowship, The Lucas Artist Fellowship and The Crawford Playwriting Award. His plays include: Running Funny, (premier featured Paul Giamatti), The Size of the World, (premier featured Liev Schreiber), The Shoreham, (premier featured Eric Stoltz), Adopt a Sailor, (Premier featured Sam Waterston and Eli Wallach,) Celadine, (premier featured Amy Irving) and Class, (Premier featured Heather Matarazzo.) Additional plays include: Wilderness of Mirrors, Teds Head and Clouds Hill. He has written screenplays and teleplays for studios such as: Universal Pictures, NBC, Dreamworks and Paramount Pictures. His produced film and television credits include a double episode of Monk entitled “Mr. Monk and the Leper” for USA Network, starring Tony Shalhoub. Mr. Evered also wrote and directed the feature film Adopt a Sailor, featuring Peter Coyote and Bebe Neuwirth. Adopt a Sailor was an official selection at more than 20 national and international film festivals and was distributed by Echo Bridge Entertainment. In addition, he wrote and directed the short film Visiting, featuring James Waterston, which premiered at the Palm Springs International Film Festival. Mr. Evered’s work has been profiled in The New York Times, BBC World and on NPR, among other outlets. He is a former officer in the United States Navy Reserve, having gained the rank of Lieutenant. Currently, he is an Associate Professor at the University of California in Riverside.
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