Ionesco Suite

October 15 - 19, 2014

Upstairs at Chicago Shakespeare

from Eugène Ionesco
directed by Emmanuel Demarcy-Mota

Playing the Play

by François Regnault

Like the stars of the Great Dipper, they are seven, who lead us through the dislocated world of Ionesco.

Ionesco Suite is made of excerpts from the following plays: Jack or the Submission, Delirium for Two, The Bald Soprano, Conversation and French speech Exercises and The Lesson, but in such a way that one may, not follow each story, but experience the principal scenes and taste their humor, tone and style. Which demonstrates how much Ionesco knows how to build a simple (the dialogue of a couple) or complex (interwoven ensemble of dialogues) scene with its beginning, its target and its end.

The actors which compose the Ionesco Suite septet like the Big Dipper stars take the audience for a good hour long journey in orbit through Eugene Ionesco’s extensive palette, his incredible mastering of word games and his poetic talent: to quote Mallarmé, the poet’s task is to “give a purer meaning to the words of the tribe”.

The staging, a result of an ensemble work, framed and punctuated by the director, leads to an authentic burlesque, differing from that of the vaudeville in which the bourgeois environment always imposes a happy marital end, while here the strangeness is brought to its extreme in family, marital or school time scenes, which are all at once unreasonable, unreal, absurd, fantastical, bloody or simply laughable.

All this is undoubtedly well known. What is perhaps less is this excellent exercise that encourages actors to take on such challenges. For in doing so, they must give up likelihood, realism and the sacrosanct “character construction”, they must escape, except in very short moments, from meaning, always nonsensical, from a constantly interrupted continuity, from messages which are immediately contradicted. At the same time, a kind of primeval affect arises in them, for desire, hate, madness, like these sudden and brief surges one often encounters with animals, cats for example, that will without warning go from a deep sleep to catching a fly, or from cuddle to leap. The actor turns into a word dancer.


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