A Night of Deadly Serious Comedies
nytheatre.com review by Leslie Bramm
June 17, 2011
A Night of Deadly Serious Comedies features two one-act plays by modernist masters Eugene Ionesco and Luigi Pirandello. These two avant-garde pieces have very specific, intellectual meanings and symbols, but are archetypical enough to allow for multiple interpretations. Therein lies the artistry. As not to beguile you with Wiki facts about these two masters, I'll tell what I got from the plays. At their simplest each piece deals with love. Young, ambitious love. Love often controlled and shaped by circumstances and people on the outside of it.
On another level both plays deal with the political realities of each writer. The time in history they wrote in, and the geography they wrote from. Characters are more ideas than real people, but still they are human—oppressed by forces beyond their control, and seemingly helpless to change their situation in life. I got the impression from both plays of a society being pressed in on, and it's naiveté being peeled away.
Ionesco's The Future is in Eggs gives us the arranged marriage between Jacques and Roberta, at the point when it is decided that they must provide offspring. The honeymoon is over and it's time to breed. The family members eagerly look on and encourage for their own personal gains that seem to have little to do with the best interests of either character.
Pirandello's Sicilian Limes tells the story of Micuccio, a small town musician who comes to the big city to woe his love, a woman he helped make famous as an opera star. His journey is fraught in a classist system that doesn't allow for a purer sense of self and art to emerge.
Joseph Hendel directed the evening and that is no small task. Hendel handles the abstraction of the text very well. He is able to access the humor, and the humanity. This type of intellectual writing demands the same amount of detail in the staging as it does in the writing. Hendel is up to the job. He knows this material, dare I say studied it, and the specificity of his direction is apparent and effective.
There is an interactive component to the evening, which I don't want to spoil. Suffice to say, it's fun, and pulls the audience into the creative process of the play.
Both plays are ensemble pieces and therefore the cast is required to become one large character. They do. Adam Hocherman, Bradley J. Sumner, Brendam Sokler, Frankie Johnson, Grace Folsom, Joel Malazita, Lisa Hickman, Meaghan Sloane, and Skylar Saltz all have moments of hilarity and compassion. The characters are stylized and the ensemble gels.
It never ceases to amaze me when I see plays that are near a hundred years old, and I realize that man is functioning with a brain that is still a percentage Cro-Magnon. That for all our technical advances life is not much better, we do not treat each other with any more compassion, than we did when we lived in caves. Both Ionesco and Pirandello capture that sense of failed humanity and are able to make it timeless.
It's so refreshing to see an evening of theatre that challenges you to think on multiple levels. It's also a joy to see plays that were created to be larger than the writers who wrote them. Something I don't see a lot of these days. Lauren Rayner Productions should be applauded for doing these non-mainstream works and reminding us just how good we have it and don't.