Absurdity Dominates Garage Theatre’s Performance of Two One-Act Plays

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Photos by freshframefoto.com

Eugene Ionesco is considered a master of the Theater of the Absurd. It’s good to keep that in mind if you go to see Garage Theatre’s currently running performance of two of his one-act plays–emphasis is on the “absurd.” When my friend Anthony and I attended last week, we laughed almost all the way through both The Bald Soprano and The Chairs while the rest of the audience, puzzled expressions on their faces, looked at us as if we had lost our minds. For many, Ionesco’s plays are confusing rather than funny. At intermission, one of them told us, “I kept looking for the storyline.” I had to tell them, “Well, there’s your first mistake.”

The Bald Soprano, Ionesco’s first play, is the more absurd of the two. Things happen (one couple visits another), but there is certainly no plot. The dialogue is maddeningly circular. I can’t really say more for fear of ruining the surprises, which may sound strange when I just told you there is no plot, but there are surprises. Part of how the play works is upending your expectations. There are also jokes, lots of jokes. If you just relax and go with it, it can be hilarious.

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Robbie Danzie (left) and Craig Johnson

The Chairs does have a plot–sort of. An elderly couple set up chairs in their living room in anticipation of a crowd of people who will come hear the gentleman explain the meaning of life. Again, I don’t want to reveal too much, but for me this play slowly stopped being absurd and became depressingly realistic. I saw it as a depiction of a couple, desperate for attention and validation of their lives, slowly descending into total madness. I wasn’t laughing by its end, squirming uncomfortably is more like it.

Director Jamie Sweet has done an excellent job of presenting these two plays. Especially effective is the use of the limited space of the black box Garage Theatre. The front door of the theater becomes the front door of the house in The Bald Soprano; in The Chairs, they set up the chairs so that the audience becomes part of the couple’s expected crowd.

The cast are consistently excellent as well, especially Craig Johnson and Robbie Danzie as the elderly couple. Perhaps the greatest triumph of the cast is their ability to maintain a straight face as they deliver often nonsensical dialogue. They convince us that these are real people up there, and what they are saying somehow makes sense.

So if you are willing to surrender to the meaninglessness of life, for the sake of entertainment, check out these two plays.

The Bald Soprano and The Chairs runs Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8PM through June 8. Garage Theater is located at 251 E. 7th St., TheGarageTheatre.org

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