Poteet Theatre's comedy 'All the Great Books (Abridged)' no page-turner

Even when a particular performance or technical aspect may not be perfect, I always admire the ambition and artistic vision on display in most Poteet Theatre productions, usually a satisfying theater experience. However, with a minimal set and only three actors portraying dozens of roles, like what's staged in "All the Great Books (Abridged)," it's almost impossible to overlook even minor flaws.

Like the other "Abridged" plays by The Reduced Shakespeare Company, "The Compleat Wks of Wllm Shkspr" and "The Complete History of America," "Great Books," while nowhere near as inspired, attempts to tackle a huge swath of information on a given subject "? in this case, great works of literature, with irreverent humor, clever satire and a hearty helping of pure silliness, all executed at breakneck speed in a two-hour show. To say that these are demanding pieces of theater for the actors involved is an understatement.

So much of comedy is timing, whether it be the delivery of a line or the execution of a pratfall. That also extends to the interplay between the actors. In Poteet's production of "Books," actor Paul Smith, who plays Coach, lacks such timing. He is a good actor that has done some notable work on the Poteet stage, but here, his performance is sluggish and unfocussed, especially when contrasted with the intensity and manic energy of his co-stars "? qualities that are necessities for the show to work.

Local theater buffs might take some extra joy in seeing David Mays, who has done a great job in a lot of intense and rather nasty roles in recent months, acting here as the enthusiastic but somewhat clueless Student Teacher.

He brings the right amount of energy and precision line delivery to the part, made all the more impressive that he just performed "The Compleat Wks of Wllm Shkspr" a few weeks ago for Oklahoma Shakespeare in The Park. Mays also turns in some excellent accent and character work, especially when in drag, so it's nice to see that he can actually play a nice guy and a goofball.

Don Taylor as The Professor gets the MVP award for nailing his part. Having done three other "(Abridged)" shows at Poteet and "Shkspr" last year at Jewel Box, he demonstrates a perfect understanding of how these shows work and how they should be played. He modulates his performance without ever letting the energy drop and builds a great rapport with the audience.

Like most "(Abridged)" productions, the set is minimal to keep audience focused on the actors and the numerous characters, all portrayed with a random sampling of purposely cheap props and costumes. The few lighting changes work fine, while some of the audio cues could be tighter. The staging, which is supposed to appear chaotic at times, felt a little sloppy.

I don't know if director James Tyra, who has directed two other "(Abridged)" shows at Poteet, was aware of the problems with the show and tried to work through them, but even as a best effort, the production was disappointing and could have benefitted from a lot more rehearsal time.

All the Great Books (Abridged) stages at 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, 3 p.m. Sunday, through Oct. 4 at Poteet Theatre inside St. Luke's United Methodist Church, 222 N.W. 15th .

"?Eric Webb

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