The Balcony

By Jean Genet

The Balcony by Genet
The Balcony by Genet

Directed by Brian Conley

Produced by Goat Song Theatre

At Second Stage Theatre (formerly Stage Left)

Energetic mounting of Genet’s 1957 play – The Balcony has its moments

The new Goat Song Theatre has mounted an off-night (Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday) production of Jean Genet’s The Balcony, his rant on the contemptibly of society as seen through key political figures visiting to  a brothel. Genet was obsessed with sex, revolution and prostitution.  He mocks the roles key figures play in society as reality, role playing and illusion become obscured.

The Balcony by Genet

Irma’s whorehouse features role playing.  A bishop (Evan Sawdey) hears a confession from  Girl (Abigail Harms); a judge (Matthew Allis) gives a sentence to the Girl and a general commands Girl to follow his lead as his horse. The customers of Irma’s (Joan McGrath) house of illusion find release in living out their sexual fantasies of power but when a revolution allows them the opportunity to become their roles in reality, they hesitate.

The Balcony by Genet

Genet’s story is wordy and complicated demanding audience strict attention. The play could use a 20 minute trim.  We meet the  prostitute turned revolutionary – Chantal (Morgan Christiansen) who is assassinated for her beliefs. The Chief of Police (Dylan Parkes) tries to survive and facilitate a return to the status quo with Irma’s help.  The Rebel (Mike Giese) has other plans. The line get blurred between reality and illusion during the turmoil.

The Balcony is a over-written work clearly a classic of absurd theatre filled with too many long speeches and too many themes to be a fluid action-packed play. It demands our full attention. Director Brian Conley’s staging tries to breathe life into this complex work. His cast gives a spark to most of the characters as they mount worthy performances. I’d advise lowering the volume from all the shouting and screaming – especially from Mike Giese. Emotions can be conveyed in other ways besides screaming.

Kudos to the cast for a spirited and moving performances. Joan McGrath’s Irma and Dylan Parkes’ Chief of Police were particularly effective. The Balcony is a seldom mounted yet important play that needs to be experienced every few years to give the next generation a glimpse into the genius of Jean Genet. This production is a terrific off-night show.

Recommended

Tom Williams

At the Second Stage Theatre (formerly Stage Left), 3408 N. Sheffield, Chicago, tickets $15, call 224-534-7114, Mondays thru Wednesdays at 8 pm, running time is 2 hours. 25 minutes with intermission.