Friday, August 04, 2017

Fringe 2017 - Review - Carly Reynolds and the STEAM Team - 4 stars

tweet review - Women and science made our first #mnfringe show Carly and the STEAM Team, an engaging informative kickoff to the festival - 4 stars

I don’t want to be like that horrible male teacher in Carly Reynolds and the STEAM Team, so I’m going to defer a bit to my female theatergoing companions who saw the show with me here.  Because Carly Reynolds and the STEAM Team is not meant to be a standard piece of drama.  It’s got a message, and it’s got information to impart.  Mom found herself thinking at first, “This is kind of pedantic” then realized “Oh, that’s its point.” 

“Anyone can be glamorous.  All you have to do is stand still and look stupid.”

Carly Reynolds and the STEAM Team is tagged as a family friendly show, for kids 12 and up.  And it could easily tour the school circuit, because it was serving up information on female scientists with whom I must admit I was unfamiliar.  Doesn’t mean they were unimportant or second string, far from it.  It just means my education, like the education of many over the years, has been slanted toward the history and accomplishments of men, and needs some course correction and pushback to give people the full picture.  Carly Reynolds and the STEAM Team is part of that pushback.

“That really frosts my pumpkin.”

Carly (Lillie Horton), a star science student, is passed over for a place in the school STEM Team to make room for lesser qualified boys.  Her persistence meets a brick wall of attitude from the STEM Team leader and teacher Mr. Paxton (David Krick).  By contrast Carly’s mom (Bonnie Schueler) and the female school librarian (Paran Kashani) offer nothing but encouragement.  The librarian also introduces Carly to a little visited section of the bookshelves where tomes on overlooked women scientists from the past (Chelsea Campbell, Megan Fischer, Suzie Juul, Sophenia Marchant, and Christine Walth) conjure up their spirits to support Carly in fighting back and making a place for herself in a male dominated field. (For the record, the names of the scientists are: Rosalind Franklin, Hedy Lamarr (yes, that Hedy Lamarr), Barbara McClintock, Rosalyn Yalow, and Ye So-yeon.)

“When it comes to space, nothing is set in stone.”

So is the point obvious? Yeah, but there’s no sense in being delicate about it.  Time is limited here.  Is there information conveyed that goes beyond your standard exposition?   Absolutely.  But we’re working from an audience familiarity standpoint of near zero, so there’s some extra work to do.  Were the vast number of scene shifts entirely necessary?  No, but everyone watching the dancing of the tables and chairs in the semi-darkness would have to admit it was speedily done and tightly choreographed.  Does some of the casting seem awkward from a racial standpoint?  Yeah, but not knowing the circumstances around pulling this show together, I’m not sure have an answer for that one.  Also, I am fully prepared to admit that I am not seeing the race of the actors entirely clearly here, I could be way off.  The casting might be spot on and I’m just seeing white where there’s more shades of color.  (And I was still happy to learn about that astronaut, regardless.)

[Update, per the comments below: the actress playing the Korean astronaut has Korean heritage herself.  Thanks for reaching out!  Sorry I'm a bit behind in moderating the comments and you thought you had to post again :) Both posts were useful, so I'm making them both visible for folks to read.]

“So many good stories that never get heard.”

Carly Reynolds and the STEAM Team is doing exactly what it means to do, in exactly the way that it needs to do it.  If you approach it in the right frame of mind, it’ll stuff that mind with facts in the tale of one girl’s rage against the patriarchy.  Not a bad way to spend an hour of your Fringe (other performances are Saturday 8/5 at 10pm, Sunday 8/6 at 5:30pm, Friday 8/11 at 8:30pm and Saturday 8/12 at 2:30pm)

4 stars, Highly Recommended


Unknown said...

Thank you so much for your review of Carly Renyolds and the S.T.E.A.M. Team!
As the actor portraying So-yeon Yi, I completely understand your confusion over race and if I was appropriately cast or not!
It was one of my main concerns with accepting the role, knowing that the audience won't have a clue that I'm half Korean and wondering if it matters because I don't look like I am.
So, if it's any consolation to you regarding casting, I am Korean. I just don't look like I am.
Was I right for the role? I'm still not sure, but I am proud of the honor to portray So-yeon Yi - even if I don't look quite right!

Unknown said...

Thank you so much for your review of Carly Reynolds and the S.T.E.A.M. Team! I'm so glad you enjoyed our show!
I apologize if I'm sending this twice -I guess I'm really bad at google commenting - I'm the actor you're referring to in your review, I get to portray So-yeon Yi in Samson's show.
Just wanted to clairify with you that, although you can't tell by looking at me, I am half Korean. A huge debate for me was if I should take the role at all, ideally So-yeon would be played by someone who is full Korean and looks Korean too! However, I am supremely honored that I get to tell So-yeon's story!
Thank you again for your review!
Happy Fringing!