Defamiliarization in “The Bald Soprano”

I attended Saturday night’s performance of “The Bald Soprano.”Seeing the play performed really emphasized the absurd nature of the poem making it more entertaining and understandable in some aspects. I can definitely see how one could apply defamiliarization as a technique in absurdist theater because of the fact that it destroys the common notions and images of conventional theater.  

While watching it I noted that that this production was different due to the fact that instead of making the couples stereo-typically British, they rather make them overtly American. There were several aspects that came together to make this performance really work. The first thing that I noticed was the way both conversation between occur. When reading the play it the conversation between the Smiths seemed to read as dry and calm, while the Martins conversation seemed to be rather excited and explosive. When it was performed, they took the absurdist nature to heart performing the Smiths rather habitual scene with an excitable nature while the Martin’s seemingly odd situation with a dry and almost tedious nature. Swapping the assumed emotions of the scene was something that definitely worked towards the absurdist nature of the play and to defamiliarize the audience with they typical emotions that might associate with said scene.

Another interesting aspect to discuss is the use of the clock, something that became apparently clear to me while watching the play was the almost hypnotic effect the chimes of the clock has on the actions and behaviors of the characters. For example, after each set of the chimes the behavior of the character’s seemed to become more and more absurd. Another moment of defamiliarization in the play comes from use of the clock. It defamiliarizes us with traditional uses of a clock. In the very beginning, the number of chimes do not seem to match the time that is given by Mrs. Smith. It also seems poke fun at the mundane uptight nature of the that was familiar to the time period in which the play was set. Defamiliarizing us, as the audience, to the traditional behavior of gender roles and class. For example, several instances were Mrs. Smith talks to Mr. Smith, seem out of nature for the time period.

The class defamiliarization comes into play when we see the behavior of the maid in the her final scene. She is seen and heard unlike the traditional nature being more of a “you are to been seen and not heard” mentality when it came to the interactions of servants and upper class. The final moment of defamiliarization comes, ultimately, when the clock fell apart, all hell breaks loose on stage. This chaos being the climax of the play defamiliarizes the traditional moments of resolution that typical come in plays, thus leaving the audience in shock and confusion as to what is going on. When this is followed by the lights going dark for an extended period of time, leading us to believe that it was the end and then suddenly the lights coming back on setting the audience back to the beginning of the play, the only difference being the switching of the actors is also a fairly absurd moment. Ionesco’s absurdity allows defamiliarization in different forms from set, to character behavior and the flow of a play as well.

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