‘The Cancellation of Lauren Fein’ Provoking and Fearful

Currently on through an extended run, Palm Beach Dramaworks presents “The Cancellation of Lauren Fein,” a world premiere of a play; a tragedy in a modern era of accountability. Written by Christopher Demos-Brown, this play provides a thought-provoking story of a collegiate professor with privilege being held accountable for her insensitivity. It is a story of stereotypical characters fearing cancel culture, with no rise or break for their transgressions, resulting in tragedy for all.

The world premiere of this play falls in the middle of Palm Beach Dramaworks’ season, a time usually held for not-so-strong productions in between the anticipated ones, so when I saw that the org was premiering a brand new play, I knew it’s where I had to be. Having only one other opportunity to attend a performance at PBD, the energy of a world premiere at any venue is electric, and I wanted to experience the show in its full earnestness. The venue itself, situated on the quaint downtown strip of Clematis Street in West Palm Beach, has an incredible newness to it, with backlit signs of named spaces from the org’s top donors. Even the stage presentation felt intentional, featuring a prominent half circle platform with stairs on each side. I didn’t know what I was about to witness.

Left to right – Odera Adimorah and Malcolm Callender in The Cancellation of Lauren Fein By Christopher Demos-Brown – Photo by Alicia Donelan.

In totality, “The Cancellation of Lauren Fein” is a play that I did not enjoy. There are certain factors that lead up to this conclusion of mine, but it is not to say that it was all bad. I was rather impressed with the performances of the cast members, despite the difficulties that stood in their way. The titular character Lauren Fein was played by Niki Fridh, who passionately embodied a professor troubled with bad luck and a streak of insensitivity. Her wife, Paola Moreno (Diana Garle), does her best to support her during an accusation that forces her from her career. Their son, Dylan Fein-Moreno (Malcolm Callender), struggles with the weight of his interracial adoption amidst this collapse of their family. Supporting cast members Karen Stephens, Odera Adimorah, Bruce Linser, Stephen Trovillion, Barbara Sloan, Lindsey Corey, and Kaelyn Ambert-Gonzalez all delivered a memorable performance.

What troubled me about this production is the scenario presented in which a tenured professor, who is married to another tenured professor, decides not to resign before a litany of accusations concerning her personal beliefs are brought as formal complaints to anyone of authority. As a collegiate educator myself, it is only my first thought when a conflict arises within my classroom to approach a faculty advisor about the situation. So, when a researcher as decorated as Fein is, she would have zero problem finding a new job with tenure. She doesn’t resign, she loses her tenure, she kills herself (which I really did not like), leaves her wife alone, who loses her own job, resulting in their adoptive son returning to foster care. This troubling detail lingered with me for days, never relieving me, which is not to say “The Cancellation of Lauren Fein” is a bad play, but hard for me to believe its sequence of events. And as a side note, some cast members had excellent microphones, and some cast members had almost no audio, forcing them to shout, which again I really did not like.

Left to right – Lindsey Corey, Diana Garle, Niki Fridh, Barbara Sloan and Karen Stephens in The Cancellation of Lauren Fein By Christopher Demos-Brown – Photo by Alicia Donelan.

In the end, this play may have just not been for me. I encourage you to go see it before it leaves the stage. “The Cancellation of Lauren Fein” has been extended through Sunday, February 25. 

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