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UT production explores Theatre of the Absurd

The University of Toledo Department of Theatre and Film’s 2009-10 season, “Style & Substance,” will look at the Theatre of the Absurd with two plays from one of the genre’s masters, Eugene Ionesco.

Theatre student Marshall Kupresanin plays the professor and Chloe Obeid, center, and Joanne Wurm, both theatre students, share the role as the young pupil in “The Lesson.”

Theatre student Marshall Kupresanin plays the professor and Chloe Obeid, center, and Joanne Wurm, both theatre students, share the role as the young pupil in “The Lesson.”

The plays, “The Lesson” and “The Bald Soprano,” will run back to back with a brief intermission Friday, Feb. 19, through Sunday, Feb. 21, and Wednesday, Feb. 24, through Sunday, Feb. 28. Curtain time in the Center for Performing Arts Center Theatre will be 7:30 p.m., except Sunday performances, which are at 2 p.m.

Far from being just silly or farcical, the Theatre of the Absurd emerged as a reaction to the ridiculousness of the atrocities of World War II that followed those of World War I within the span of one generation. It demonstrated how humanity was disconnected from its own experiences and had not learned from its previous mistakes. Ionesco attempted to take the larger scale of life and compress it so that one character becomes the representation of a social, ethnic or political group and one person’s entire life condenses into one evening.

In “The Lesson” and “The Bald Soprano,” Ionesco’s characters are oblivious to the nonsensical way they think, act and live. He exposes their absurdities to the audience in a way that is at once funny and yet unsettling and disturbing.

“The characters are people who are unable to connect with each other, unaware of their own actions and the results of their actions, and who therefore put themselves in absurd situations while being completely oblivious to these situations,” said Cornel Gabara, UT assistant professor of theatre, who directs the production.

In the first play, “The Lesson,” a professor grows increasingly frustrated with what he believes is an incompetent student. But is the student really incompetent or does the professor fail to teach?

The second play, “The Bald Soprano,” takes the setting of a seemingly banal and quiet evening dinner with friends and reveals a possible progression of events triggered by a random train of thoughts, random association of concepts and ideas caused by the short span of awareness of the people involved.

Gabara said that Ionesco isn’t saying that connecting with other people is absurd. “What’s absurd is how people behave, thinking they’re connected when they’re really not,” he said. “[Ionesco’s] trying to show through language how saying words is not equal to communicating.”

Tickets are $13 for general admission; $11 for faculty, staff, alumni and seniors; and $9 for students. They can be purchased online here, by calling 419.530.2375, or by visiting the Center for Performing Arts Box Office Monday through Friday between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m.

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