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Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Absurd but Absurdly Good Production of Ionesco Play from Savage Rose

Sabrina Spalding, Victoria Reibel and Tony Pike in The Bald Soprano.
Photo by Kelly Moore.


The Bald Soprano

Written by Eugene Ionesco
Translated, Adapted, and Directed by Tad Chitwood

Reviewed by Craig Nolan Highley

Entire contents are copyright © 2013, Craig Nolan Highley.  All rights reserved.

I can honestly say I have never been more bewildered and confused by a play that entertained me so much.

Don’t look for a lot in the way of meaning or themes or even common sense in Savage Rose’s new production of Ionesco’s absurdist classic. You won’t find any. What you will find is an hour of laugh-out-loud silliness performed by a uniformly excellent cast. Yes, I left scratching my head; but my sides were sore from the constant hilarity.

Written by Eugene Ionesco in the late 1940s and first performed in 1950, it was inspired by the playwright’s attempt to learn the English language. Its nominal storyline involves an increasingly bizarre dinner party hosted by the Galettes (Michael Roberts and Karina Strange) and attended by the Martinis (Tony Pike and Sabrina Spaulding). As they continue in their escalating meaningless banter, they are frequently interrupted by their maid Mary (Victoria Riebel) and her lover, the Fire Chief (Brian Hinds). The lunacy escalates as the voices get louder, culminating in what appears to be a complete nervous breakdown by the entire cast.

I have never read Ionesco’s original French play or any of its English translations. But from what I can tell, director Tad Chitwood’s new translation is quite faithful aside from a few four-letter words and modern references. The meaning of all this lunacy has been debated since it was written, and some interesting theories were presented by some of my fellow audience members. I rather think it was deliberately pointless. It isn’t called Theater of the Absurd for nothing!

Performances were top-notch all around, with special props to Tony Pike for maintaining his constant state of bewilderment, as if he is the only character who realizes strange things are going on around him. Michael Roberts is also quite funny, as his lunacy escalates right along with the plot. And Karina Strange never quite tops herself after her hilarious foreign-language curtain speech at the top of the show.

Tech aspects such as the set design, sound and lighting were on par with the performances. It continues to amaze me what great things can be done in that small space at the Bard’s Town.

This was a nice change of pace for the Savage Rose Classical Theater Company. Sadly, the show will have closed by the time this review posts (it ran eight performances over two evenings), but hopefully it found its audience. I for one would love to see some more examples of classic Absurdist plays performed locally. Rhinoceros, anyone?

The Bald Soprano
Featuring Brian Hinds, Tony Pike Victoria Riebel, Michael Roberts, Sabrina Spaulding and Karina Strange
August 30-31, 2013

Savage Rose Classical Theatre Company
At The Bard's Town Theatre
1801 Bardstown Road
Louisville, KY 40205
(502) 749-5275

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