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Disfunctioning: Two plays by Ionesco

By Eugene Ionescoionesco

Directed by Dragon Torbica

Translated by Donald M. Allen

Produced by Rare Terra Theatre

At the Second Stage, Chicago

Noisy absurd plays mere irritation

While I’m not a strong fan of Theatre of the Absurd,  I have appreciated many of the works of Beckett, Genet and Pinter but Eugene Ionesco’s work have escaped me. It could be the translation or maybe the staging but ultimately his work leave me baffled. That sure was true with Rare Terra Theatre’s Disfunctioning: Two plays by Ionesco. Played for humor, I found Jack Or the Submission to be an over-the-top affair filled with screaming and shouting and cartoonish movements. Was director Dragon Torbica so not trusting Ionesco’s message that is a parody of family life that he had his actors over play the work?  His family is trying to get Jack (Nicholas Harazin) married of to Roberta (Catherine Price-Griffin). They resort to guilt trips and intimidation. Jack is derided by his family until he boldly states “I love hash brown potatoes!”

When he meets Roberta, he rejects her because she doesn’t have three noises and because he isn’t ugly enough. But Roberta succeeds in seducing    Jack but we have to suffer through too many ridiculous situations and too many meaningless speeches. The work tries to force the humor but less than a third of the opening night audience laughed. I never did. Jack Or The Submission droned on past the point of tedium.

The second play, The Lesson,  finds a wound-too-tight professor (Graham Brown) trying to get his Young Pupil (Vashi Emigh) to the next academic level through tutoring. It started out interestingly enough but soon grew tedious as repetition and absurdity took over until violence over took the professor. I did enjoy the work of Graham brown as the mad teacher.

I guess those who enjoy Ionesco’s  work and those who like Theatre of the Absurd will find enough redeeming value in this show. I found it too loud, too over played and too goofy. Theatre of the Absurd  practitioners expressed the belief that human existence has no meaning or purpose and therefore all communication breaks down. Logical construction and argument gives way to irrational and illogical speech. That sure was the case here.  You will find these two show challenging – beware.

Somewhat Recommended

Tom Williams

Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast

Date Reviewed: November 7, 2012

At The Second Stage, 3408 N. Sheffield, Chicago, IL, tickets $18 – $28, call 773-305-5643, Thursdays thru Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays at 5pm, running time is 2 hours, 10 minutes with intermission, through December 15, 2102

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