I saw *Ionesco Suite* at BAM on 1/24/19. It's an assembly of five plays by Eugène Ionesco: *Jack, or The Submission,* *Delirium For Two,* *The Bald Soprano,* *The Lesson,* and *Conversation and French Speech Exercises*. The assembly was done by director Emmanuel Demarcy-Mota and the seven actors in the cast.
Richard and I saw *The Bald Soprano* and *The Lesson* at the Théâtre de la Huchette in Paris on our honeymoon (*The Bald Soprano* has been playing at that theater continuously since 1957, a world record). We also saw Ionesco's *Rhinoceros* at BAM in 2012 done by the same company as *Ionesco Suite,* the Théâtre de la Ville.
I think of Ionesco as being loud and manic, so it was intriguing to have the show start in silence, with the seven actors haltingly walking onstage and looking at the audience with a mixture of bewilderment and menace. The first scene appeared to be a birthday party, with Sarah Barbasnikoff playing the mother berating the birthday boy, Walter N'Guyen. Hilarious. They played a married couple in the next scene, which had a wonderful Freduian quality to it.
Ionesco is a master of the absurd, but the director and actors grounded the absurdity to make it dramatic and not simply baffling. We, as the audience, might not have understood what was going on, but the actors did.
The show had a lot of music, for a play - - this often bothers me, but it was an integral part of the experience in this show, it really worked. The music was written by Jefferson Lembeye and Walter N'Guyen, who was also one of the actors in the ensemble. And they did something I don't think I'd seen before: they used different font sizes with the projected translations. It was a cute touch.
I know it's coarse to say this, but I loved that the show was only 80 minutes long. I'd enjoy seeing this company (or any company) do something similar with Shakespeare or Chekhov. Leave out the boring parts, just give me the drama and the flair.
[photo by Ed Lefkowicz, courtesy of the BAM Press Office]