Masquers Present 'Theatre of the Absurd'

Monday, April 10, 2006

The final Masquers production of the 2005-2006 season consists of two one-act plays, "The Bald Soprano" by Eugene Ionesco and "Offending the Audience" by Peter Handke. Directed by Dr. John O'Connor of the Theatre Department, the two plays will provide the audience with examples of "The Theatre of the Absurd."

For tickets, call the Box Office at (304) 367-4240. The two plays will be presented April 27-29 and May 2-4 at 7:30 p.m. and April 30 at 2 p.m. in Wallman Hall Theatre.

"The Theatre of the Absurd" is a term coined by Martin Esslin for the work of a number of playwrights, chiefly written during the 1950s and 1960s. The term itself is taken from an essay by French philosopher-novelist, Albert Camus. In the author's "Myth of Sisyphus," written in 1942, he first defined the human condition as essentially meaningless and absurd. The plays of this genre share the view that man inhabits a universe with which he is out-of-key. Its meaning is indecipherable and his place within it is without purpose. Humankind is bewildered, troubled and obscurely threatened

Eugene Ionesco began his play "The Bald Soprano" in 1948, inspired by the banality of the phrases in an English-language phrase book. These phrases were the basis for an anti-play or "a comedy of comedies." Although Ionesco set out to show how human discourse had devolved into a collection of empty platitudes and self-evident truisms, something that he believed was very distressing, his friends found his play very amusing, and encouraged him to find a theatre to stage it. That he did, and it was first produced in Paris, at the Theatre des Noctambules on May 11, 1950. It has remained a theatrical staple ever since. The play opens in a "middle-class English" interior with a typical English couple, Mr. and Mrs. Smith. The silence is broken by an English clock that strikes 17 times, prompting Mrs. Smith to remark that, "It's nine o'clock."

Appearing in "The Bald Soprano" are Amanda Carrico (Mrs. Smith); Steve McElroy (Mr. Smith); Sarah Rowan (Mary, the maid); Daniel Crowley (Mr. Martin); Sarah Grumblatt (Mrs. Martin); and Daniel Hawkins (The Fire Chief).

Peter Handke's play--or non-play--begins when the curtain goes up. The actors tell the audience that this is not a play. They are not characters. The stage does not represent another place, the time of the action does not unfold as though it were some fictional time, that time passes as it does in real life for the audience, that there is no illusion.

Handke's play is an hour-long polemical lecture about theatre, taking place in the theatre, attempting to be as unlike theatre as it can possibly be. The audience is asked to abandon every expectation, to be the subject of the actors' gaze the way that they are usually the subject of ours. There is nothing offensive in what is represented on the stage; the offense of the title is that nothing at all is represented.

Appearing in "Offending the Audience" are Brandy DeVault; Michael Fluharty; Melissa Testa; and Michael Vozniak.