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Laughing Around Town with Larry Litt


by Eugene Ionesco

Is it totally absurd to spend an entire Saturday sitting in a theater experiencing three full length and three short plays by one author? Yes it is when the playwright is Eugene Ionesco, father of the theater of the absurd, which he called, in French, the theater of derision. But along with the words Latin root meaning ridiculous is also the connotation of contempt.

On top of Ionesco’s contemptuous and satiric form is the rarely seen masterpiece of academic scorn startlingly titled “Improvisation.” Which it’s definitely not. By contrast to those topical improv revues which have blossomed around our town for the last 30 years this “Improvisation” is a brilliantly written play in which a mature, successful playwright named Ionesco is visited by three academics with advanced doctorate degrees in theatrical medicine.

The extraordinarily polite playwright, played by the immensely hospitable Roland Johnson, is enjoying a snoozy daydream break from his work when suddenly there’s a loud and awakening knock at the door. In comes Professor
Bartholomeus the First, sneeringly, fatuously, pompously and perfectly played by John Hagan. He offers his studied services to help answer all the questions Ionesco, the character now, may have about everything and anything to do with playmaking and the theater because he has a degree. In fact this professor has several degrees along with several graduate and post graduate degrees as well. An expert can never have too many degrees, he alludes, because authority needs institutional backing.

After what seems like an endless yet intellectually witty discussion of theater theory in which it is questionably proven that scholars know better than playmakers what works in a thing called a play, there comes a loud and alarming knock at the door. Bartholomeus the Second enters, played by Calvin Wynter, a funny young man who agrees and disagrees, with a qualifying politeness of course, with everything Bartolmeus 1 says. It’s now two scholars against one playwright with everyone being cautiously polite as they attack each other in the most educated manner of European intellectuals.

Suddenly there’s a knock at the door. It’s Bartolomeus the Third, played to the hilt like a merchant of meaning by Michael Connolly. He got wind of a critical conversation taking place, with a playwright as the object. What could be more fun for a man with degrees? He just couldn’t resist stopping to offer a few well chosen principles contributed with excellence of speech in some very learned way. All for the good of the theater, of course.

What takes place in the next hour is one of the most humorous indictments of the office of the dramaturg I’ve ever seen on stage much less heard in private when that job title is being discussed by professionals. If only Shakespeare or Aristophanes had had educated overseers how much better their plays would have been. How much more important academics with no imagination or talent could make themselves with awards, panels and conferences about noth ing masquerading as sharing research on theater history and technique.

Director Yolanda Hawkins and her True Comedy Theatre Company played their opinionated cards perfectly in “Improvisation.” I left the theater laughing out loud, strongly reminded of the eternal battle between true creativity versus the creative poverty of educational and critical intervention.[Litt]

If you have any comments or want to notify me about performances or shows, you can e-mail me at humornet@aol.com.

Copyright © 2001 Larry Litt


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