Normally, I don’t quote program bios, but playwright Lisa Lewis says she “spent six years as a story analyst for New Line Cinema…Tribeca Film and the Weinstein Company.” All those hours picking apart scripts have paid off: Lewis’s wised-up and whip-smart Schooled bristles with apt, stinging lines about writing for the movies. When college prof Andrew (Quentin Maré) grumbles, “Students want careers, guys like me wanna start over. Journalists want to be screenwriters. Screenwriters want to direct. Playwrights want to write for TV,” you could quibble with the glibness, but it’s all part of the fun. And Lewis doesn't just crank out elegant rants and put-downs: her characters are rich and, for the most part, unpredictable.
The dialogue is so tight you almost forget Schooled lacks what Andrew calls an “inciting incident.” It’s basically a series of romantically tinged power struggles between the professor and two of his students: the insecure but soulful Claire (Lilli Stein) and her cocky, privileged boyfriend, Jake (Stephen Friedrich). Both Claire and Jake aspire to the movie industry, and Andrew will judge which of them gets a coveted grant to make a film. Throw in the middle-aged teacher’s unhappy second marriage, his drinking problem and attraction to Claire (which Lewis handles with remarkable humor and subtlety), and you’ve got a seriocomic love triangle with literary nostalgia and Los Angeles bashing. At 90 minutes, the piece moves smoothly (James Kautz is a fine actors’ director), even if you can't ignore the narrative inertia at the center. Still, the actors are polished and appealing and the banter is clever. By nature, talky Schooled would probably not make a good film—and I mean that as a compliment.—David Cote
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