Friday, January 8, 2010

"The Bald Soprano": ☼ ☼

In the 1940s and '50s, when playwrights were first developing the works that would come to define the Theater of the Absurd, the plays of writers like Beckett, Genet, Sartre and Ionesco signaled a new theater world. Their works were anti-works, their characters anti-characters and their plots novel because there weren't any.

Eugene Ionesco's "The Bald Soprano" is known to be one of the great Absurdist works, although it was his first produced play, and it probably raised eyebrows when it was written in 1948. The Cutting Ball Theater Company's current Exit Theater production of "The Bald Soprano" elicits great laughter from the audience and seems to hit home to many, as the production has been extended twice already.

But for this reviewer it is one gigantic yawn. The cast is excellent, especially Paige Rogers as Mrs. Smith, Caitlyn Louchard as Mrs. Martin and the hysterical Anjali Vashi as Mary the Maid. But they are actors trying to be anti-actors performing a script made up of senseless phrases. In 1948, audiences were probably shocked. Now, the show feels like a modern art exhibit where the canvases are all the same shade of green. What's it all about, Alfie? Well, nothing. That's the point, see?

The Cutting Ball Theater has recently produced another Absurdist masterpiece, Beckett's "Krapp's Last Tape." Audiences are appreciating their work. Perhaps the theater's location actually helps. Just walk outside and you're on skid row. A city of derelicts one block from the gigantic Hilton Hotel. Now there's absurd for you.


The San Francisco Theater Blog Awards Division awards "The Bald Soprano" Two Stars for the hard working actors. But the ending -- oi. The actors do cartwheels on the sofa and bounce off the walls while spouting non-sequiters. It feels like a Preschool after a break for jelly donuts, and it takes a very long time. Perhaps this is not translator and director Rob Melrose's fault, since the lines are on the page. Perhaps the fire captain rang the doorbell. Perhaps he didn't. Maybe this matters to you.

"The Bald Soprano"
Exit on Taylor, 277 Taylor Street, San Francisco
Through January 24

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