Teacher of the Year earns low marks for both math and comedy | Theater Review | Chicago Reader

Teacher of the Year earns low marks for both math and comedy 

The devil's in the details.

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Jake Wallach

This sounds insignificant, but the cast of Teacher of the Year messes up the Fibonacci sequence, a mathematical series in which each number is the sum of the previous two, then liberally incorporates the error into its plot. The mistake is indicative of the production's poor attention to detail. The missteps distract from its wit, absurdity, and playfulness with comedy tropes, and it becomes impossible to suspend disbelief—a prerequisite given the show's bizarre premise.

Five teachers from Nelson High School attend a conference during which the school board names one of them, Derek, teacher of the year. The other four educators are openly frustrated; Derek is, frankly, a dick. He's lecherous, boorish, and rude. As the festivities are wrapping up, the Nelson crew discover Derek dead in front of the elevators. They set off on a scavenger hunt, devised by a mystery person, to learn the killer's identity.

The ensuing chaos reveals the show's inconsistencies. After Derek's body is found, the actors break the fourth wall and address potential concerns. For the purposes of this hunt, they say, there is no cell service, all the elevators are out, emergency exits are locked, and no one else is around. Later, they travel up to floor 15—the number is a key clue and is not part of the Fibonacci sequence—without explanation as to why they abandoned the metaconceit. Character traits are broad: the only tangible example provided of Derek's suckiness is that he farts into teachers' cars through the window. And the B story, concerning the school board members, is neither fleshed out nor related in any way to the rest of the show. Comedy lives in specificity, and the lack thereof earns Teacher of the Year low marks.   v

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