(Best of the Capital Fringe)
This Gonna Be on the Test, Miss? is written and performed powerfully and hilariously by Ronna J Levy and directed by Kel Haney. Originally conceived in Matt Hoverman’s Go Solo Workshop, the play vividly paints a picture of a woman finding herself through a community college teaching career and acting career.
Levy showcases her life from her childhood, where she always wanted to be an actress, and was constantly being thwarted. She thinks that when she gets to college she will finally blossom and be the woman and actress she always wanted to be. But that doesn’t happen. In college, she says, “I was a nobody who hung out with the acting students.” She is forced to study public speech at a state school since her dad told her that acting wasn’t a good degree.
She thought, after leaving college, “I can be who I want to be,”and the performance explores this challenging journey
Levy taught at a community college in New York where she met the love of her life, mentor, and fellow teacher Lee, who taught for 30 years. “He showed up for all of his students,” as Levy fondly recalls. After teaching there for a bit Levy decides to pursue her dream of acting in Los Angeles. There she works as a part-time community college remedial English teacher, in a café, and auditions for shows.
Levy humorously juxtaposes her acting work to her teaching, and hilariously recites her lines of a bland television commercial for chocolate with words shown behind her on the white wall. The ad sounds empty compared to the love and praise she gets back from a lot of her troubled students. There is a moving scene where a student, who is a doctor from China, tries to help Levy with her dying father by prescribing herbs.
The turning point in Levy’s career was meeting actor John Astin – famous for playing Gomez on The Addams Family. When he asks her what she does for a living, she responds, “I teach!” That experience and its influence on her life is quite life-affirming, and is beautifully recreated, and is the highlight of the show for me.
This Gonna Be on the Test, Miss? is vibrant and hauntingly beautiful. I enjoyed Levy’s use of humor to paint a vivid picture of her life. Also fun is her impressions of her students utilizing different accents and humorous body language. She hilariously describes how she remembered her students’ names by jotting down notes. so when a new student comes in with pink eye so she writes “pink eye” next to his name.
Songs from Katy Perry to 80s’ rap. help set the stage for each act. The set is simple with a high top chair. The use of projections of her students’ notes to her, her commercial ads, and her teacher critiques behind her on the white wall -perfectly complement.
Running Time: 75 minutes.
This Gonna Be on the Test, Miss? plays through July 19, 2014 at Caos on F Theater—923 F Street, NW in Washington DC. For information and to purchase tickets, go to their Capital Fringe page.
Read a preview on DCMetroTheaterArts.