ALL THE GREAT BOOKS (ABRIDGED)By Reed Martin and Austin Tichenor
Additional Material by Matthew Croke and Michael Faulkner
Greater Lewisville Community Theatre
Directed by Alex Krus
Assistant Director - Erin Hardy
Set, Sound, Properties and Costume Design - Alex Krus
Lighting Design - Bryan S. Douglas
Stage Manager - Kristy Scroggins
CAST - in order of appearance:
Rick Powers - Coach Powers
Professor LaCour - Keith LaCour
Student Teacher, Mr. Dobbins - Eric Dobbins
Reviewed Performance: 4/28/2013
Reviewed by Mary L. Clark, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
Today we will quickly, and I mean quickly, be going through not one, not two, but eighty nine of the world's greatest books. You will be expected to not only have an understanding of each book, but will also be expected to get all your teachers' jokes, asides, puns and characterizations, and to laugh energetically in great abundance.
Ok, let's get started. A bit of background information is needed here so take notes. The Reduced Shakespeare Company began performing condensed versions of classic plays at renaissance fairs back in 1981. Over the years, actors would come and go within the company, writing and performing abridged versions of just about any and everything. Apparently they quite mastered the art of condensing complete histories on various subjects. Play titles include The Complete History of America (abridged), The Bible: the Complete Word of God (abridged), Western Civilization!, The Complete Musical (abridged), Completely Hollywood (abridged), the TV film The Ring Reduced, Reduced Shakespeare: The Complete Guide for the Attention Impaired . . . well, I think you get the idea. The concept of using only 3-4 actors to bullet train through literary tomes just keeps on coming. An abridged version of all seven Harry Potter novels, called Potted Potter, is making its return engagement in New York City currently, and I fully expect all of Danielle Steel's novels to be condensed down to one hour and seen in a theatre near you any day now.
Actor, director, producer Austin Tichenor co-wrote the play All the Great Books (abridged), along with fellow company member Reed Martin, with additional material by original cast members Matthew Croke and Michael Faulkner. Produced and first performed at Bang Improv Studio in Hollywood, CA, All the Great Books (abridged), is set in a classroom, very much like the one you are in today. Three of your regular teachers have been assigned to go over the material so you may pass your exam and receive your certificate. Do take notes as it's a rather large syllabus and your teachers are to cover each and every novel or poem. You'll be speeding through literary works and their authors - from Shakespeare to Seuss, Doctor Jekyll to Dickens, Twain to Tao Te Ching, Moby Dick to Maya Angelou, Jaws to J.K. Rawling.
To assist your teachers, Greater Lewisville Community Theatre has allowed the class to be held in their small black box theatre. GLCT has dealt with this remedial class before, having produced another Reduced Shakespeare Company winner, The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged), a little over three years ago.
Upon entering, you may have noticed three old portrait paintings of rather important looking gentlemen, all sporting large, lengthy moustaches. Our school janitor, Mr. Alex Krus, who, oddly enough, also directs and designs the sets, costumes, props and sound for our school's theatre productions, may know their significance but I haven't a clue. No matter, they are there to represent the importance of our endeavors and should therefore be respected.
Ahem. The up center stage doorway, leading to other rooms, has a well-lit console table holding the Holy Grail of all novels, War and Peace, and one we will be discussing in length today. The vertical bookcases on either side of the doorway will hold the books as we go through them one by one. All the other items and properties on the shelves such as a globe, loving cup trophy, other knick knacks, and of course all those books on the floor are only there to remind you that we mean business here.
So on to our remediation. I understand that you may already know some of these teachers, but since they don't normally teach this class, a little introduction of their techniques may be in order.
You all recognize your PE teacher, Coach Rick Powers, from his ever-present ball cap, gym shorts, soccer knee-highs and running shoes. He'll be handling some of the physical portions of the class, and you may find him hilariously charting one of the novels on the chalkboard much like a football play. Don't be alarmed at his shouting, whistle blowing or wild leaping about; it's how he gets things done, and he does it with all the heightened emotion and fun of being on the sidelines during a winning goal.
You may not be taking drama this semester, but Professor Keith LaCour, always smartly dressed in nice slacks and button-down shirt, will be using his acting prowess to help you remember the works come exam time. He is astute at making a grand entrance, such as his Superman characterization of flying through the hallway or landing center stage as Don Quixote battling those windmills. His ability to switch characters instantly is amazing to watch, and his "straight man" demeanor makes his humor all the more memorable. The professor will definitely have you laughing out loud if you're not careful, but I'm going to allow it just for this one class.
And I think all of you know our student teacher, Mr. Eric Dobbins. We haven't yet found out what he's qualified for, and I do wish he would come to school in something more suitable than jeans and a Star Wars T-shirt, but no matter, he is a master of the funny face, the outrageous pratfall and the irreverent phrase here and there. Of course, nothing is R-rated, as that would not be permitted in our school, but I hear he does keep you students entertained with all his antics so I guess that's good if it will help you learn something . . . anything.
Each of the teachers will be using an arsenal of costumes and props to help you remember the syllabus. Coach Powers may use swim goggles and ducky float to represent Poseidon from Homer's Odyssey or a wig and skirt for one ugly Helen of Troy. Professor LaCour might become female novelist George Eliot during a literary figure dating game or add a French beret and sword for The Iliad's Paris. And Mr. Dobbins could easily get confused, as you know, and bounce in with ears and large white gloves like a Mickey Mouseketeer instead of Dumas' d'Artagnan.
Again, it's all for laughter and to get the novels and characters straight in your head, whether you've done your homework and read the books or not.
There will be some brief discussion on racism and classism, as several of the works center on those subjects. Nothing too overt, but is important enough for your further education to go into these topics, so listen carefully.
Now, you may think you can just sit in the back of the classroom, plug into your iPod and chill, but I wouldn't if I were you. There will be voluntary class participation and you wouldn't want to be mindlessly listening to Snow Patrol in case a toy or beach ball comes flying your direction. And there will be a mid-class exam just to make sure you are awake and paying attention.
Ok class, I'm going to leave you in the hands of your comedically capable teachers and I know you will not only have great fun but will also learn more about All the Great Books here at Greater Lewisville Community Theatre than you (or I) would believe possible. And sit down Tommy - you may NOT have a pass to the bathroom !
Greater Lewisville Community Theatre
160 W. Main Street, Lewisville, TX 75057
Runs through May 12th
Friday-Saturday at 8:00 pm, and Sunday at 3:00 pm.
Tickets are $16.00, and $13.00 for "those 65 and over and 18 and under".
For information on the play and to purchase tickets, go to www.glct.org or call them at 972-221-SHOW (7469).