THOSE WHO CAN’T DO... by Erin Fleck, directed by Shari Hollett (Theatre Passe Muraille, 16 Ryerson). To October 29. $25-$30. 416-504-7529. See listing. Rating: NNN
Sex education sure flips people out. Did you hear about those outrageously ignorant flyers passed around by Tory candidates in the provincial election, trying to scare parents away from giving kids the information they need?
Time to talk, people.
So welcome Erin Fleck and her solo show Those Who Can't Do... Fleck plays all the roles - principal, students, parents and protagonist Lillian, who's assigned the sex file at her high school with zero preparation.
Fleck touches all the right bases: the principal who never takes responsibility for her decisions, the parents who think they're protecting their kids by denying them access to condoms, Nora, a student who's having responsible sex but keeping it secret and, most memorably, the so-called school slut Taylor, who scores the highest in the infamous fellatio club.
There's some solid writing here. Taylor's speech about the empowering properties of giving head is terrific. In a later monologue, as her dad explains why he's become more controlling now that pictures of Taylor down on her knees have circulated on the web, you can sympathize with him, testimony to Fleck's chops. And there's a sharply drawn narrative arc to Lillian's own story as she learns to step into the thankless role of sex educator.
As an actor, however, Fleck isn't strong enough to make the most of the material. Sometimes it's not clear which character is speaking until well into the speech.
Director Shari Hollett brings some good ideas to the table - using the blackboard to introduce the characters, for example, and conveying power dynamics by having characters sit on different sides of the desk.
But she could have helped Fleck differentiate the characters by giving her some signifying props. Taylor's hair clips are referenced in her dad's monologue, for example and Fleck has long hair that could go up, down, in a bun or a ponytail.
Still, Those Who Can't Do... is absolutely of the moment and does precisely what theatre should do - get the conversation started.