By Jody Williams, Contributing Writer, Theater News & Reviews, November 7, 2015
Thought-provoking, sometimes uncomfortable, mesmerizing. Those are the words that best describe Carefully Taught, a new play by Cheryl L. Davis and directed by Pat Golden, playing at the Astoria Performing Arts Center.
Revolving around two high school teachers and best friends, one African American, one white, Carefully Taught forces us to confront our own attitudes towards life’s most delicate topics including race, family, and friendship. Latoya Edwards and Sheila Joon are the two teachers, Alice and Claire, respectively. Alice is African American and Claire is white. However, each actress also plays the daughter of their opposite character. So Latoya plays Claire’s white daughter and Sheila plays Alice’s black daughter. Sounds confusing, but it’s not. The direction and writing are so phenomenal that this usage of actors is far from awkward. We are able to see, side-by-side, how these women behave as teachers and as mothers as well as how their daughters act as students and as friends.
The other two actors in the show are Esther Chen and Bristol Pomeroy. They both also play more than one character. Esther does a great job changing between a hard-hitting local news anchor and a somewhat ditzy para-professional at the high school where Alice and Claire teach. But it’s Bristol Pomeroy who steals the show in three roles: the principal of the high school where Alice and Claire work, a sketchy senator, and the African American reverend of Alice’s church.
The story revolves around an incident that tests Alice and Claire’s friendship and involves their jobs, which happen to be the same position at the school. We see how this incident comes about and how sometimes the best intentions can blow up in your face. Race is at the forefront but not overdone. To quote from the play, “it’s always just there.” Without being offensive or stereotypical, each actor moves seamlessly between each of their roles and the races of their characters. But in addition to tackling heavy topics, and making me think and question certain things, it also made me laugh. The show only plays for three weeks, until November 21st, so run, don’t walk. And while you’re there, explore Astoria!