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A CurtainUp Review
And Miles to Go
By Jacob Horn
"This is high school. In New York City. Where are there children?"— Ms. Winkfield-Porcher
>l-r: Devika Bhise , Randy Danson (Photo: Spencer Moss).
In one of New York City's toughest schools, Adele Priam (Randy Danson) has seen it all over her forty years of teaching. Now, as the underperforming Urban Sanctuary High School is reviewed for potential turnaround, she struggles with her deep-seated frustrations with the education system, students who resist her attempts to connect with them, and an administration with which she is decidedly at odds. When a Board of Education review team comes to evaluate the school for a final recommendation, nobody can imagine how fateful the day will be. Such is the premise behind Chad Beckim's new play And Miles to Go, a ripped-from-the-headlines story now being staged by Partial Comfort Productions at the East Village's Wild Project.

And Miles to Go is a profoundly affecting show, driven by great directing from Hal Brooks and featuring some fantastic performances (especially from Danson). A wonderfully evocative set by Jason Simms, which easily conjures images of one's own grade school classrooms, with the help of solid light and sound design, takes full advantage of the Wild Project's intimate space.

The play is well done in every respect and fully merits the attention of anyone drawn in by the premise. There are occasional frustrations, but this is that rare kind of show where even the perceived flaws are intensely thought-provoking.

And Miles to Go is also a play that is difficult to describe without spoiling. Those who plan to see it may wish to stop reading.

On the day of the evaluation, Ms. Priam has a tiff with school administrators Ms. Winkfield-Porcher (Maria-Christina Oliveras) and Mr. MacDonald (Andy Prosky) and is forced to play babysitter to some of Urban Sanctuary's more troublesome students (Devika Bhise, Keona Welch, and Gabriel Millman). The group gets off to a rough start, but then a PA announcement gives a coded instruction to shelter-in-place.

Everyone jokes around, assuming it's a drill, until the gunshots start. And suddenly, it's unclear what this play is even about anymore. Is this device just a giant ploy to avoid confronting the irresolvable educational issues that the first part of the play had dredged up? Or does this tragic moment illuminate the play's characters as individuals with humanity in a way that often gets lost when we think in broad categorizations like "inner-city students," "exasperated teachers," and so on?

Indeed, up until this point, the characters are strongly archetypal. The educators all take on the roles we've come to expect from the media's education coverage and numerous documentaries on reform issues: Priam is the overspent aging teacher answering to a young principal, Winkfield-Porcher, who came in eager to shake things up until the system's many obstacles rendered her ineffective. But if these roles seem clich3d, it is only because we've been led to understand them as so overwhelmingly common in reality. Beckim knows what he's talking about, too, having spent several years as a teacher in a disadvantaged New York public school.

When the play takes its tragic turn, it's not by any means an unbelievable twist. This is the kind of freak event that nobody ever thinks is going to happen until it does; it is an episode of random, senseless violence that requires no motivation or justification. This is a horror with which we are all too familiar these days.

Here, Danson, Bhise, Welch, and Millman play out that sense of horror to chillingly vivid effect. Their performance as an ensemble is fantastic, as they go from antagonistic adversaries to each other's only comfort in an incredibly dark moment. The scene in which the shooting takes place is excruciating, and watching these four performers' characters experiencing it together deepens the emotional impact considerably.

Meanwhile, though, you can't help but wonder if the play eclipses its own message by distracting from one social issue using another one that is rawer and more dramatic. Is there only enough room for one hot-button issue in 70 minutes? It's an absurd question, clearly, because the failing education system and rise in gun violence are both significant problems in today's world. In asking whether the two issues can fit into the play together, Beckim may just wind up prompting careful thought about both after all.

That's the funny thing about And Miles to Go. Every time it seems to come up short, that apparent shortcoming seems a tremendous asset after a bit more thought. Beckim is blunt in his indictment of a current state of affairs, and Brooks' production fulfills the goal of the script in tackling its subject matter directly and forcefully.

And Miles to Go
by Chad Beckim
Directed by Hal Brooks

with Randy Danson (Adele Priam), Carlo Alban (Felix Suarez), Andy Prosky (Marty MacDonald), Maria-Christina Oliveras (Leslie Winkfield-Porcher), Brian D. Coats (Eddie Riley), W. Tré Davis (Maurice Parker), Devika Bhise (Tiffani Riccitelli), Keona Welch (Keema Reyes), and Gabriel Millman (Dawson Dikkon)
Set Design: Jason Simms
Costume Design: Whitney Locher
Lighting Design: Lucrecia Briceno
Sound Design: M. Florian Staab
Original Music: Ryan Rumery
Stage Manager: Michelle Kelleher
Produced by Partial Comfort Productions
Running Time: 70 minutes, no intermission
The Wild Project, 195 E. 3rd Street
For tickets: or 866-811-4111; $20
From 10/03/2013; opened 10/10/13; closing 11/02/2013
Performance times: Wednesdays through Saturdays at 8 pm
Reviewed by Jacob Horn based on 10/17/13 performance
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And Miles to Go
And Miles to Go - Chad Beckim is blunt in his indictment of a current state of affairs, and Hal Brooks' production fulfills the goal of the script in tackling its subject matter directly and forcefully. . . Read More