The Nomadic Theatre’s production of The Bald Soprano by Eugène Ionesca is a very funny play and a wonderful production. Lorrie Damerau’s surrealistic set consists of a frieze of over 50 teacups, a collection of bird cages containing unexpected treasures like a teddy bear and a bottle of scotch, or a clock. A door is left open displaying a jumble of furniture suggesting a Sandy sort of natural disaster, and other views suggest this room is a haven from a hazardous external environment. People are not who they seem, fires are anticipated, and when there is a knock on the door, no one is there, and time moves erratically forward, faster, and faster.
The host couple, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, are so stuffy they’re caricatures of British restraint, though their disconnected discourse is delivered with a frenetic urgency and rapid fire dialogue. At irregular intervals the Smiths are interrupted by the French maid Mary (the very funny Sarah Frasco) whose insouciance is delightful, as are her orange patent leather boots.
Their visitors, Mr. and Mrs. Martin, arriving as if by accident, discover through coincidental confessions that they are indeed husband and wife and parents to a daughter with one red and one white eye. Mary, the French maid, enters to tell the audience that, despite these astonishing parallels, the Martins are not who they think they are, since the actual daughter’s red eye and white eye are reversed from those of the child they describe. .
When the doorbell is rung but there’s no visitor, the husbands insist that it could not have been rung by no one, while the wives claim that perhaps no one did. The visitor turns out to be ‘someone else,’ stopping by to ask for a conflagration to quench.After he relates some long and irrelevant tales, and the Martins and Smiths erupt in a crazed potpourri of phrases that finally crash into silence. The play ends as it began, with the Smiths indulging in the same small talk – except now it’s done by the actors who played the Martins. Interchangeable identities.
Like many plays in the theatre of the absurd genre, the underlying theme of The Bald Soprano is not immediately apparent, or even consensual. Many suggest that it expresses the futility of meaningful communication in modern society. The script is charged with non-sequiturs that give the impression that the characters are not even listening to each other in their frantic efforts to make their own voices heard.
Despite an easy conclusion that this is a parody, Ionesco states in an essay written to his critics, that he had no intention of parody, but if he were parodying anything, it would be everything. According to Ionesco, he had several possible endings in mind, including a climax in which the “author” or “manager” antagonizes the audience, and even a version in which the audience would be shot with machine guns. However this was ultimately settled for a cheaper solution, the cycle. Since there are two couples in the play, it begins the first time with the Smiths and the second time with the Martins, to suggest the interchangeable nature of the characters.
Credit goes to Director Robert Duffley, Producer Natalie Gallagher, Light Designer Ryan Smith, Set Designer Lorrie Damerau , Costume Designer Brendan Quinn, as well as a special hurrah to Props Designers Caitlin Dutkiewica and Allie Van Dine for their well thought-through adaptation of this classic.
All the young actors perform with great spirit, and a range of emotion in this difficult work. The forty-five year old play hasn’t lost its laughs. Six well-cast and well-coached actors worked overtime (and came to school a week early) to make this hysterical evening a great success!