Parents Night and The Bigger Issue
George F. Walker
Sit your butt down and learn your three Rs: ranting, resisting, and respect.
In two new plays, Canada‘s king of black comedy takes on the failing education system. Both Parents Night and The Bigger Issue are set in public-school classrooms after hours and involve confrontations between stressed-out teachers and ticked-off parents. Both sympathize with embattled educators and evince Walker’s trademark understanding of poverty and the working classes. In both, Walker’s signature moves work: the audience feels simultaneously complicit in and righteously angry about injustice and inequity.
Parents Night finds grade-three teacher Nicole caught in the crossfire between John, an arrogant executive dad, and Rosie, a ballsy, low-income mom. Both are meeting with Nicole to express concerns for their children, but class warfare quickly erupts, and the kids’ behaviour turns out to be a reflection of their parents’ messed-up lives. A harried Nicole is dealing with troubles of her own, but she makes a brave attempt to discipline these overgrown brats.
The Bigger Issue covers the same ground but digs deeper. Suzy, a novice middle-school teacher, has been called onto the carpet by the principal, Irene, for physically accosting a violent student. But when the boy’s parents show up, it becomes clear that Jack and Maggie are a middle-class couple reduced to abject poverty; the real problem isn’t their son or the school but a dysfunctional society.
Together, Parents Night and The Bigger Issue comprise the first instalments in a projected play cycle similar to Walker’s famous Suburban Motel. With an introduction by Toronto director Wesley Berger.