“The Prime Prime of Miss Jean Brodie” is one class you can’t afford to skip.
The show follows the syllabus of a 1930s Scottish teacher, Miss Jean Brodie (Denise Devlin). Brodie is a free-spirited feminist who imparts art, culture and feminism to her favorite students at the Marcia Blaine School for Girls. The Brodie set picks up their teacher’s admiration for Mussolini instead of mathematics, Giotto instead of geometry and sex instead of science.
The story is told from the memory of Sister Helena (Colleen R. Sketch), a cloistered nun and bestselling author of “The Transfiguration of the Commonplace.” When an American journalist (Landon E. Horton) comes to the convent to interview this writing nun, he asks who was her greatest influence. She answers that it was Miss Brodie in her prime.
Miss Brodie wields complete influence over her four favorite students. Sandy (Emma Robertson), the future Sister Helena, is insightful and dependable. Her little eyes earn Miss Brodie’s trust. Beautiful Jenny (Samantha Wright) is destined to become the great lover Miss Brodie was meant to be. Monica (Meghan Logue) is brainy while Mary MacGregor (Elizabeth Byland) stutters stupidly along. The four girls compete for Miss Brodie’s attention while at the same time struggling to find themselves.
Directed by Sandra Forman, the cast’s first-rate acting makes this show worthwhile. Devlin artistically masters the complex Brodie, illuminating the dull scenery with poetic speeches and a magnetic, distorted personality. John Scheller plays Mr. Teddy Lloyd, Miss Brodie’s married and frustrated lover, with a frailty that leaves the audience sympathizing with the womanizing father of six. Meanwhile, Robertson effectively captures Sandy’s rebellion against puberty under the intrusive eye of Miss Brodie.
Besides outstanding acting, the most impressive part of this production was the way the cast pulled off a Scottish accent with the ease of one of William Wallace’s Highlanders. Byland’s performance of Mary MacGregor was especially impressive. It’s hard enough to communicate an understandable Scottish brogue, let alone trying to do it with the painful stutter of the socially backward Mary.
Forman’s directing carefully guided the production away from the dangers of a slow-paced, dialogue-heavy story. Despite the length, the show was energetic and passionate until the very end.
“The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie” is an entertaining examination of the influences that mold our lives.