By Emilee Hatfield
Subjectivity is a very interesting thing, it is beaten out of the brains of all writers alike that make their way through the educational system. Being a lover of English and Literature myself, I cannot tell you how many times I had to “shut off” the subjective side of my brain when it comes to literary analysis or critique papers. However, that is always easier said than done. Yet the question is still lingering like a shot of whiskey that has just been poured. Does subjectivity, matter more than objectivity? Does the normal, educated appearance matter more than one’s own unique personal identity?
These questions are fully explored within the Arvada Center’s production of, Educating Rita, that opened last night to an almost sold out crowd. The play, directed by Lynn Collins is the opener to the Arvada Center’s Black Box season and creates an overall shock factor to both the mind and soul.
The story revolves around a young woman named Rita (Emily Van Fleet) , who enrolls in an open university literature class, taught by a professor named Frank (John Hutton) who prefers to spend the night at the pub rather than the theatre.
Over the course of their lessons both Rita and Frank find themselves learning from one another, all the while revealing the importance of the human mind, and what we define as “educated” can mean more than what we give it credit for. This is emulated perfectly when considering that the only two people ever on the gorgeous set design by Brain Mallgrave is Rita and Frank. Which in the case of Hutton and Van Fleet is both an amazing and intriguing mix, the two actors create that instant connection needed when having only the two of them performing throughout the whole show. This can be hard on actors sometimes, but both actors carry this story on their shoulders with grace and ease. Keeping you in your seat with a curiousness as to what will take place during their next lesson.
The power of both of their performances is the crown jewel of this play. Both actors clearly understand their characters very well and embody them to the best of their ability. The mix that is created between them is perfect, as if they were the embodiment of the comedy and tragedy masks that are not one without the other.
It is rather tragic to watch as Frank slowly watches the inevitable happen to his student as she looses some of herself in order to meet the expectations of the world. And this is something that playwright Willie Russell encapsulates so well within the character of Rita.
Despite the play being set in the 80’s its relevance is just as important now as it was then. The theme’s of personal identity vs. cultural class can really weight on Rita who must fight certain societal stereotypes constantly in the back of her mind and in the wake of her personal life.
It is in that moment that Van Fleet has the audience at her feet. Equipped with a Liverpool accent of the highest ability she is able to take this theme whether the audience is aware of it by this point of the show or not and slap them right across the face with it. Leaving Hutton to merely stand there within the closing moments of the first act as she presents the defining realization of what goes through people of different social classes minds when fighting to break out of the norms of their environment.
Overall then entire production is fantastic and should be added to your list of theatre of need to be seen within the Denver Metro area.
From the directing, acting, designing, and dialect couching, each piece fits perfectly together to create a powerful night of theatre that truly takes you places you did not expect to go. Leaving you to question yourself and how important subjectivity is when looking at the objectivity of the world. Whether you find the answer is fully up to you.
Educating Rita runs through November 11th, for tickets please visit https://arvadacenter.org/educating-rita or call the box office at 720-898-7200