An important part of my studies in French was the famous playwright, Ionesco. The Theatre of the Absurd is certainly something to behold and although it seemingly makes no sense, it does make sense. While I taught French, I often ended up reading the famous French play by Ionesco, “Rhinocéros.” In it, people going through the routine of their daily lives are struck down by a strange disease in which they begin turning green and developing horns before turning into an actual rhinoceros. When reading or seeing the play, one is impressed to think that perhaps it might be talking about a situation where even though one might know better, one falls victim to a charismatic individual and philosophy and gets caught up in a movement (like that of the Nazis). Ionesco, a transplant in France from Romania, does this all so well.
Life after all is extremely absurd, more often than not nothing seems to make any sense and rules are broken, things change, odd things happen. What is it due to, God? What if you do not believe in God? If there is a God, why is he/she allowing so many bad things to occur?
On Friday evening, MK and I went with CC and Tony to the Shakespeare Theatre on Navy Pier for a special event, the “Ionesco Suite,” a compilation of various parts of Ionesco Theatre put together by a French Troupe and accompanied by the English Translations (albeit, sometimes with a mistake here or there or a nuance I did not expect) in projection form. I have not yet figured out how not to watch such things even though I understood what was going on. Understood? Maybe not totally possibly with the Theatre of the Absurd!
The entire evening proceeded well. We picked up CC and took Sheridan Road to Lake Shore Drive (which I like to do at that hour of the day, finding it less stressful and with less traffic than the highway) and managed to get to Navy Pier in a reasonable time, about an hour. We did the Riva Restaurant Valet, giving us a $14 fee for parking (amazing!) and had a wonderful dinner overlooking the Chicago skyline with its autumn clouds and gloomy Lake Michigan. Barbara Gaines, the artistic director of the Shakespeare Theatre was even having dinner with her family at the adjacent table.
I was really wondering what to expect. I know enough about Ionesco to be aware of what was coming but I was wondering how the actors were going to be able to ‘pull it off.’ As it turned out, they did an amazing job. Yes, it often made no sense at all. At times there was major word play as they played with language. At times there were strange reactions on the part of one actor to another and the costuming was odd. One of the actors with an extremely dark ‘five o’clock shadow’ was dressed up as a girl and wearing a blonde wig. There were antics that recalled a Carol Burnett or a Lucille Ball type scenario.
Tony put it really well as he said that he was not really sure where it was going (who was?) but the longer it went on, the more he was liking it. Add into all this that there was some sort of fracas in the upper area of the intimate theatre (not the usual one for the Shakespeare venue, but on the 6th floor), which we were not sure was a part of the play or something odd happening. The latter is apparently the true story as someone started talking to an actor and pretty much refused to quiet down and was apparently escorted out.
Mary Kay just mentioned that at the end of the play she had a very neutral reaction but later on it all got pieced together in her mind. She felt as if what she had witnessed was like what is often going on in our minds where thoughts and visuals occur haphazardly and without being instigated. The French actors were amazing in just being French, in periodically speaking with an American accent in French and throwing in just a bit of gallic-accented English. To look at the troupe, they looked decidedly French in both physical appearance and gestures.
It was an amazing event, very unusual, a one act (without intermission) play that brought out all sorts of audience reaction, I am so glad to have been a spectator.