"Disfunctioning, Two Plays by Ionesco" (Rare Terra Theatre): Intellectual Brain Tickle

"Disfunctioning, Two Plays by Ionesco" (Rare Terra Theatre):  Intellectual Brain Tickle

Rare Terra Theatre presents, DISFUNCTIONING, TWO PLAYS BY IONESCO.  First in “Jack, or the Submission,” two families forcibly encourage a guy to wed.  Jack is not an easy man to love.  He is obstinate and demanding.  Marrying him off is going to be a challenge.  His mom tries to guilt him.  His dad tries to threaten him.  His wannabe fiancé tries to seduce him.  Who has the words to get him to comply?  The second offering is “The Lesson.”  A young girl seeks private tutoring for educational advancement.  Initially, the eager professor is charmed by her zest and her math skills.  During their session, her inability to logically reason starts to drive him bonkers.  What happens when someone can’t subtract the basics?  DISFUNCTIONING, TWO PLAYS BY IONESCO uses quirky wordplay and simple equations to unravel life’s constants.

Playwright Eugene Ionesco is known as an aficionado of the Theatre of the Absurd.  Ionesco uses familiar scenarios like a boy meeting a girl or a pupil learning from a teacher and then heightens the comedy by substituting the unexpected:  4-2= 4, the Spanish pronunciation of rose, a woman being rejected for her beauty.  Ionesco teases out the absurdity in ordinary communication by removing the customary response.  This is most apparent in “The Lesson,” where the professor reacts to the illogic of his student.  Under the direction of Dragan Torbica, an animated Graham Brown (professor) and a deadpan Vashti Emigh (pupil) captivate with an authentic and completely zany exchange.  The woman behind me was laughing hysterically.  I was very amused by the clever premise and the precision delivery.  I laughed out loud at Catherine Kusch’s (Maid) small but significant and sharp presence. 

Theatre of the Absurd is definitely for a more sophisticated palette.  It takes an appreciation for the art of making fun of art.  For me, “Jack, or the Submission” was too melodramatic and cartoonish.   Torbica brings it out before “The Lesson.”  It might have played better in the second position. “The Lesson” wades us into the nonsensical world of the bizarre.  It starts out normal and slowly twists the mundane into the f#cked up.  With “Jack, or the Submission,” it’s a jackknife into the deep end.  All the characters are wacko and right away.  There isn’t any time to get use to the peculiar.  It’s swim or sink in the oddity.      

DISFUNCTIONING, TWO PLAYS BY IONESCO is a puzzler.  There is a lot of focus on loving hash brown potatoes. The intellectual brain tickle isn’t for everyone.  But if you’re looking to expand your theatrical experiences, Rare Terra delivers two very different and memorable immersions into Theatre of the Absurd.    

Running Time:  Two hours and ten minutes includes an intermission

At Second Stage Theatre, 3408 N. Sheffield

Written by Eugene Ionesco 

Translated by Donald M. Allen

Directed by Dragan Torbica

Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays at 8pm

Sundays at 5pm 

Thru December 15th 

Buy tickets at www.rareterratheatre.com

Production photograph courtesy of Jason M. Hammond

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