Anyone who has burned the midnight oil before a major exam needs to experience the zany, whacky antics that permeate All the Great Books (abridged). Go for the education, stay for the belly laughs.
The show has less to do with artistic gems than the role of humour in a frightening world. Where else can you find pad puns (dumb ass cf. Dumas), beach-ball artillery and a vaudevillian dancing horse. Much physical comedy abounds. The best laugh of the show came from an uninhibited child in the audience whose glee at the Professor’s (Michael Faulkner, who provided a masters level of timing demonstration) ass being pummeled—think Monty Python Meets The Three Stooges.
Faulkner is aided and abetted by Coach (Mick Orfe) whose screaming whistle, short pants and play-board propel us through the classics, despite his obsession with War and Peace as the Mother of all books. Any Republicans in the crowd silently endured the Bush/Cheney jibes. (If only the troupe knew the hilarious political fodder that awaits them in Canada …)
The baby-face student teacher (Brent Tubbs) warms the cockles of our hearts even as he seems so-at-home in his frequent “impersonations” of the fairer sex (the seashell brassiere a personal favourite).
Act I is a hoot. The frenetic pacing zips along wonderfully. The second set struggles from both the grading of homework (the audience is asked to choose two best books and say why during intermission) and the shtick of having the instigator of Plato “ahchoo” (you have to be there) get his comeuppance from Coach.
Never mind. Lurking in the weeds is the magnificent notion that even if the leaders of the modern world (and their suppliant minions) had read 10% of “The Syllabus,” that much of the horrific conflict currently engaging the planet would long ago have been consigned to the remainder bin.
(Editor’s note: for obvious reasons, this review has been condensed!). JWR