Ionesco Suite

October 15 - 19, 2014

Upstairs at Chicago Shakespeare

from Eugène Ionesco
directed by Emmanuel Demarcy-Mota

Heading for Laughter

by Colette Godard

"Today, as in the past, Ionesco watches us living, struggling, seeking and making mistakes. Nothing escapes him. Least of all the strength of humor."

Almost ten years ago, in 2005, Emmanuel Demarcy-Mota opened his treasure box. In other works, he discovered Ionesco’s theater, which he has never completely left. Since then, here and there, from West to East, throughout the world, he has given an echo to the ever radiant questions raised by Rhinocéros about regimentation and independence, about the difficulties in accepting the others and being accepted by them. At the same time, together with his artistic team, he constantly returns to this stage melting-pot also born in 2005, which was named Ionesco Suite. And why not? Since we are dealing with the earlier works, divided in excerpts and mixed together, reorganized in a situation that allows for a maximum liberty: a family meal. Pity the author did not live long enough to see the work, he would have loved it.

Working together, to transmit what his theater has taught them and made them experience, the actors felt at ease with his way of always taking things the wrong way. In his lucidity, in his doubts, his ramshackle humor, through which so many hard to admit personal or universal truths are conveyed.

In France and abroad, Ionesco Suite has been presented in very different venues, from the derelict garage to high schools. And for the first time, in 2013, in Théâtre des Abbesses in Paris. To answer the premier requirement of the work, proximity, connivance between actors and spectators, assembled around a family table.

The plays were written in the fifties, a period of reconstruction and hope, but the memories and wounds of the war were still painful, and the cold war froze all ideological enthusiasm. Ionesco nourished his theater – and first his humor – with his anxieties and revolts. Since, society, hence the family, has evolved. And yet…

It is true to say that Europe is slowly being woven, that wars have moved to other continents, that dictatorship is now that of the universal financial crisis. Still, digging into texts written more than half a century ago, seven actors (5 men, 2 women) of different generations, coming from various places, encounter common and immediate grounds in which each will sort, try out, and experiment. And then, together, they rebuild what they are living, what we are living today. A form of disarray, rooted in the present, nourished by heaps of information coming from all over, difficult to verify, but which from one screen to another overwhelm us. The near and the distant merge, the horizon broadens, violence is transmitted through images, the family is decomposed, then recomposed, branched off, its conflicts are multiplied. But it lives on, now and forever. Now and forever, it concentrates all the torments of society. How can one resist, how can one meet again? By following Ionesco, his way of always taking things from the wrong side. And by laughing about it, even if it hurts.

Ionesco Suite is not strictly speaking a political work, it is much too funny. It is not a simple joke. It is much too real. First and foremost, it is a moment of pure theater, crazy and penetrating.


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