A Queer Vietnamese-Houstonian-New Yorker Writer musing about the arts and absurdities when not screenwriting or playwrighting

The Prime of Miss Jean Brody: Serviceable Drama


This is a theater production review that wasn’t published by the UH The Daily Cougar. So I leave it here. The play ended its run though.

Who knew that romanticism can be twisted into an ideology itself?

September 25th-27th, 2015, the UH School of Dance and Theater renewed its theater season with its production of Muriel Spark’s “The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie,” directed by Jim Johnson.

Miss Jean Brodie (Kat Cordes), often clad in a rose-red scheme, is often happy to reaffirm that she’s at her prime, so much that a drinking game could be made out of it. She starts out as the typical cool teacher, taking her girls out to museums, operas, picnics, and giving romantic history as lessons within a conservative environment. With measured charisma, she conceals her radicalism from the hawk-eyed principle (Heidi Hinkel). Her iconoclastic approaches ignite fanatical romanticism in her girls. Miss Brodie waltzes around in a love triangle with the music teacher Gordon Lowther (Camron Alexander) and the local married painter Teddy (Mischa Aravena), parading her unmarried status as a symbol of her superiority. With many girls eager to follow her, she can play being the prophet of progressivism.

Every line Kat Cordes delivers gives an orgasmic, snide flair and she’s milking every second onstage. She projects her romanticism onto the girls, slotting each of her students into her own little categories. Jenny (Skyler Sinclair) is singled out as the “one most like her.” Mary McGregor (played delightfully skittishly by Autumn Simpson) is the un-precocious, dumb one, but despite all the bullying, is a blind follower of Brodie. Only Sandy (Ronden Perrin) develops a wariness of Brodie’s dedicated superficiality. Any girl under her wing would fall into a toxic spell, which Sandy would learn the hard way. Even though she outgrows Brodie’s ideas, she cannot outgrow the festering emotional wounds Brodie planted within her.

When squinting closer, “The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie” can be read as a revenge play, though not one of Shakespearian extremes that led bloodshed or poison. There is an “assassination,” but not in the traditional definition. Muriel Spark’s philosophical and theological material is played quite safe with a solid cast. It makes for a serviceable and a sustainable evening entertainment.


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