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Willy Russell’s comedy ‘Educating Rita’ now performing at Theatre 40

Murielle Zuker and Adrian Neil.
Murielle Zuker and Adrian Neil.
Ed Krieger

Willy Russell’s comedy “Educating Rita” is now performing in rep at Theatre 40. Directed by Robert Mackenzie and produced by David Hunt Stafford for Theatre 40, the show stars Adrian Neil and Murielle Zuker.

Setting the scene: "Rita is a 26-year-old hairdresser from a working-class background in the north of England. She has a husband, but feels her life is limited. She seeks to free her intellect and expand her possibilities and horizons by furthering her education. She longs for more than she has (her name Rita is itself a pseudonym and an affectation). At the local university, she is assigned a tutor, a significantly older professor named Frank. Frank is at first less than delighted with his new charge. He is dealing with his own demons of depression and alcohol dependency.

"Rita will not be denied. She has a ravenous hunger for culture and learning and demands what Frank can give her. He will change her life, but he himself is headed for trouble."

This may sound like the plot of “Pygmalion,” but it’s not. Nor is it a predictable older man/ younger woman romance. “Educating Rita” is itself, a completely unique comedy.

British playwright Russell is a former hairdresser who became a playwright with 23 published plays, the best-known of which include “Educating Rita” (which debuted in London in 1980), “Shirley Valentine” and “Blood Brothers.”

“Educating Rita” performs in rep with “The Love List” through June 23. Admission is $24 weeknights; $26 Saturdays and Sundays. Call 310-364-0535 or visit www.theatre40.org.

Theatre 40, in the Reuben Cordoba Theatre, is located at 241 S. Moreno Dr. in Beverly Hills. Ample free parking is available beneath the theater. The venue is on the campus of Beverly Hills High School. Theatre 40 is a professional company.