Saturday, September 19, 2015

Independent Players at Elgin Fringe Festival

If one could draw a line from Gertrude Stein to Monty Python's Flying Circus, it would pass through Eugène Ionesco's 1950 absurd play The Bald Soprano, staged by the Independent Players Friday at Elgin Fringe Festival.

Two (or three?) couples in a suburban London parlor are essentially a talking tableau against which language itself becomes the protagonist.  Completely awash in prattle, the narrative is just barely conventional enough to explain the presence of actors, yet the characters are strangely absent.

The Independent Players perform The Bald Soprano at the 2015 Elgin Fringe Festival.
The long scenes of loquacity were handled skillfully by the Players, whose delivery of sometimes meaningless lines shifted attention to the art of enunciation. The action, minimal but well-rehearsed, was welcome relief from a script so dense and disconnected it sounds like a memorized dictionary.

In our age of smartphone-powered distractions, we like to lament the loss of conversation and the intimacy it produces between people. But Soprano suggests this is not a new problem: people can converse for years and still not recognize each other—or themselves.

In the end, as the dialogue becomes even more random, structureless and repetitive, the speakers seem to form a collective mind, but it's both more and less than a consensus. Walking in circles, shouting in unison, they finally agree—on precisely nothing.

Though avant-garde theatre is one of those genres that people love to hate, it belongs in a Fringe Festival and the well-directed Players make it worth a look.

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