BACKSTAGE (new york)


They Call Me Mister Fry

August 14, 2008

By Marc Miller

It's a risky business, portraying not only the white-bread schoolteacher you are but also two of your most problematic inner-city pupils. But as the poetic, love-starved Jasmine and the tough-talking would-be gang member Anthony, actor-author Jack Freiberger offers detailed, rounded portraits and gracefully evades the P.C. police in his one-man autobiographical show They Call Me Mister Fry.

In this To Sir, With Love-style narrative, set in an awful South Central L.A. grade school, Freiberger goes through the stages of innocence ("It's got to be safe. Look at all the police here!"), frustration, anger, and despair, eventually reaching through to his hard-bitten 11-year-olds.  It would be good to know more about some of the other kids in class, what the teaching conditions were like, and how much of the actual curriculum he was able to convey.

Still, it's a touching story, and Freiberger is a personable tour guide. And his other characterizations — the by-the-book principal, an intimidating colleague, the students' down-and-out parents and guardians — are uniformly excellent!