This Week in Theater
Directed and Choreographed by
To truly appreciate “Ionescopade”, one needs a little background on Eugene Ionesco. So for those of you who skipped literature classes to do “God knows what?” here is a little information. Ionesco was born in Romania and grew up in France in the early part of the 20th Century. His eccentric and dark view of life made him a great writer of Absurdist Fiction and the father of the Theater of the Absurd.
Absurdist Fiction, in a quick definition, is a genre of literature, theater, and poetry that is bleak and negative, mirroring the intellectual belief that the meaning of life is only what you give it. Ionesco was not sitting around all day writing sexy love stories, although there was romanticism about it all. While some of his writing might seem comical, it is only to prove the absurdity of it all. This was a fascinating time in Europe for poets and philosophers who would sit around in the cafes of Paris having deep intellectual discussions about life and death in the wake of two devastating wars. After speaking to Ron Sossi (Artistic Director of the Odyssey), I know he has a fascination with this historical era.
“Ionescopade” is a ride into the mind of Ionesco. It’s not one story but several short vignettes of Ionesco’s plays, as well as work from other Absurdist writers, and snippets of his journals. It’s all beautifully put together with moments of music, dance, magic, mime, and storytelling.
The staging, acting, music, and production quality are perfection, as one expects from the Odyssey. The Costumes done by Mylette Nora were very creative and helped make the visual aspect a treat. Alan Abelew is endearing as the magician. His simple but well done tricks are entertaining and work well as a diversion from the vignettes; he is just a joy to watch. He mimes and mimics his way into your heart. Joey D’ Auria is adorable as the French chef who shows us how to make a hardboiled egg. Tom Low, Cristina, Gerla, Kelly Lester, and Jennifer Malenke bring beautiful music to your ears with lovely well trained voices. Andrew Ableson hits you hard with his delivery of the monologue, “The Killer”. The entire cast was well experienced in Musical Theater.
The play, as I see it, is a performance piece and requires the audience to do some self-exploration and come to their own terms about the complex dialogue. The story lines are masked with humor, but as you dig deep, you will be forced to see the dark side. You must listen carefully to every sentence; it’s a little hard because the words are delivered with song, dance, and costumed characters in a vaudeville style.
I found it very distracting, which I think was the point, and profound at the same time. I wanted to pay attention to the writing. The production is enticing, creative, and interesting, but I have to admit it’s not for everyone. “Ionescopade” is billed as a musical, but it’s more like a journey into the complicated minds of those writers who flood the readers with their complex sophistication. For total satisfaction, you need to process the spoken words.
“Ionescopade” is not new to the Odyssey. They premiered it 30 years ago, and it was quite a success. Thinking about it, I realized that the present is another time in history where some of us might be questioning the dark times we are experiencing. Do you think our children’s children will have a reason to exist? Does anything have meaning now? I will leave you to decide.
I do appreciate the risks that the Odyssey takes; they are very committed to bringing you interesting and at times controversial work. Sossi is really good at picking a play that depicts the current social questions of today.
Inspired by Eugene Ionesco
Original Concept by Robert Allan Ackerman
Music and Lyrics by Mildred Kayden
Directed and Choreographed by
Musical Direction: Gerald Sternbach
Cast: Alan Abelew • Andrew Ableson • Joey D’Auria
Cristina Gerla • Kelly Lester • Tom Lowe • Jennifer Malenke
Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd. Los Angeles CA 90025
Wednesday thru Saturday @8pm and Sundays @ 2pm.
Check the site for exceptions, closes August 11th