Around these parts, the toughest teaching jobs aren’t in high school. They’re in academe. One week they name you “Teacher of the Year” and the next thing you know, they’ve eliminated your department altogether and you’re history. That’s the dog eat dog real world here in the “Athens of America.”
The funniest play in the theater world this month (or any month for that matter) is Andrew Clarke’s hilarious ACADEMY FIGHT SONG (at the BCA through Sept. 26th). It has less to do with the Mission to Burma megahit of the same name and more to do with Kingsley Amis’ LUCKY JIM, which inspired Clarke in the first place.
You could sum up ACADEMY’s plot as ‘one professor’s spectacular descent’ but that doesn’t do justice to Clarke’s freewheeling imagination and his outrageous way with words. Suffice it to say, I never stopped laughing from the get go to the get up and leave. It’s a lightening fast eighty minutes deftly directed by CentAstage’s artistic director Joe Antoun.
Clarke’s razor sharp dialogue is mother’s milk for his deliciously naughty characters and the CentAstage cast delivers the goods. Craig Mathers manages a tour de force as the cocky professor whose undoing provides us with a windfall of laughter: The swan dive which punctuates his preposterous Jacobean lecture is simply divine.
Richard Snee, too, is a certified master in the art of comic timing. When Snee’s wry chairman of the English department spars with Mathers’ posturing professor, no one is safe from their prickly barbs. Even the girl scouts take a hit for their relentless cookie assaults. Tracy Oliverio and Tyler Catanella add to the delightful frenzy as an impervious ex-wife and a young, talented rival for the professor to contend with.
The play moves so quickly that I missed one of the curves (a definite hazard when every line is so entertaining that if you savor it too long, you’ve laughed over the next one). Even that didn’t detract from the unyielding enjoyment I reaped from one man’s extremely bad fortune. Miss it at your peril.