THE GREAT SCHOOL CRISIS written and performed by Ted Johns, directed by Layne Coleman. Theatre Passe Muraille (16 Ryerson). Runs to March 31, Tuesday-Saturday 8 pm, matinee Sunday 2:30 pm. $21-$30, Sunday pwyc. 416-504-7529. Rating: NN
the great school crisis does not rise to the top of the class. It gets high marks for a double major in humanity and political concern, but its minor in theatre is just that.Ted Johns's one-man show, directed by Layne Coleman, takes on the Tory education reforms with a shotgun approach to comedy, aiming to be satiric, entertaining and sharp, but too often ending up with heavy-handed humour and little wit.
The calibre of the comedy?
A man on workfare jokes that he wants to repair nuclear reactors and is told that "those people have their grade 12s."
Playing a variety of male and female characters, Johns attacks Harris's Common Sense Revolution with a bludgeon of statistics and warnings, reaching as far back as the 1840s to show the folly of a government's ham-fisted approach to education. You might pick up some information on how the government funds schools or get a recap on curriculum shifts, but the facts are rarely presented in an involving fashion. There's indignation here, but little drama.
And yet, every once in a while Johns surprises us. There's a grade 11 student, wearing the uniform of reversed baseball cap and sunglasses, talking in an icy monotone about the government's wanting kids to fail.
The final character, a woman who runs a one-room schoolhouse and juggles lessons for 50 students, has dignity and depth. Too much of the rest could be collapsed into a five-minute firstname.lastname@example.org