Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Review: (Montreal) Teaching Shakespeare (Fringe)

Crippled by Idolatry
by Élaine Charlebois
In his one-man show, Keir Cutler takes on the role of a professor whose obsession with William Shakespeare consumes his ability to teach a coherent class.  Throughout the piece, Cutler moves swiftly from teaching insightful literary theory to subjecting the class to his utterly incomprehensible tangents. In an instance where the professor reads aloud the supposedly anonymous teacher evaluations which highlight his lack of organization, his inability to get through the Shakespearean scene assigned for that day’s course, and his overall ineptitude as an educator, the audience soon discovers that this professor is in fact progressively becoming unhinged. One example is the character’s attempt to guilt-trip his students by suggesting that their comments compromised his shot at tenure and ruined his marriage. 

Overall, Cutler was very successful in his portrayal of a man whose success as an academic is crippled by his idolization of Shakespeare’s work. Though the extent of the professor’s incapacity to deliver comprehensible subject matter was over the top and done in a way that inspired laughter from the Mission Santa Cruz audience, Cutler’s character still remained relatable. The way in which he portrayed a university professor who is undoubtedly well-versed in Shakespeare but who is incompetent as an educator definitely reminded me of my own experience with certain university professors whose passion for their subject matter outweighed their duty to provide students with relevant knowledge. And for that, “Teaching Shakespeare” was indeed a treat!

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