Eugene Ionesco at Playreaders

By Susan Rushton

This coming week Playreaders proudly presents La Cantatrice Chauve, translated from French as The Bald Soprano or The Bald Prima Donna. This play offers a rare opportunity to see the work that launched the Theater of the Absurd in Europe, a movement subsequently embraced and developed by such literary giants as Beckett, Albee and Pinter.

The Bald Soprano
Tue-Thu, Mar 4-6, 7:30pm
St. Paul’s Church
Cardo 6
20 pesos

The Bald Soprano was the first play written by French-Romanian playwright Eugène Ionesco. It premiered on 11 May 1950 (almost 63 years ago!) at the Théâtre des Noctambules in Paris and since 1957, there have been continuous performances at the Théâtre de la Huchette in that same city. With a record number of interpretations, it has become one of the most performed plays in France.

The play begins with a seemingly ordinary scene. An English couple, the Smiths, are sitting in their living room after dinner talking about what amounts to a lot of nothing. Mrs. Smith recounts to her husband all the things that have happened earlier in the evening, even though Mr. Smith was actually present himself. They then discuss a family in which everyone is named Bobby Watson.

The Smiths’ maid, Mary, appears on the scene and announces that their friends the Martins have arrived. It turns out that the conversation of the Martins is as strange as that of the Smiths. They don’t seem to remember each other, even though they apparently live in the same house, sleep in the same bed, and just traveled on the same train together. Eventually, through an extended process of elimination, they decide that they must be a married couple!

The Smiths and the Martins then have a prolonged nonsensical chat. Soon the Fire Chief arrives hoping there is a fire in the house. He is crestfallen to learn there isn’t, but since he has nothing better to do, he stays and starts telling his own wacky stories.

As the play continues, the conversation among the characters… always strange…becomes stranger yet, then completely nonsensical and finally so wildly chaotic that it collapses entirely as a form of communication.

The play ends in the midst of this uproar and then promptly begins again with a reprise of the original domestic scene, except this time it is the Martins who recite the opening lines.

Cast for this production includes John Wharton and Judy Newell as the Smiths, Jim Wright and Kate Rowland as the Martins, Geoff Hargreaves plays the Firechief, Lauren Osornio is the Maid.

Lights and sound by Don Nieglos. Susan Rushton directs. Tickets 20 peso donation at the door. Come early to be sure of a seat!


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