The Bald Soprano: UMF Production

This weekend, when I attended UMF’s production of Eugene Ionesco’s The Bald Soprano, I paid careful attention to the set and the props that were used. I was very curious after reading the play, how the actual production of it would look, and I made some interesting observations about the artistic choices that were made. Due to the absurdist nature of the play, I was curious as to how this might impact the practical appearance of the set, the costumes and the props.

What I noticed about the set to begin with, was that it was almost normal, but there was a very slight feeling of absurdity to it. It was almost realistic, but wasn’t. The walls of the living room were an exaggerated shade of blue, the portraits on the wall were comically large. The clock on the wall, one of the main focal points, was also exaggerated to be larger than usual. Everything about the set, props and costumes felt almost normal but slightly of kilter.

I thought the aesthetic was perfect for this play. On the surface, The Bald Soprano has the allusion of being a normal play, and the set helps create that illusion. As the story progresses, and the play reveals itself as being more of an anti-play, the aesthetic of the set begins to feel less realistic. The clock on the wall looks like a normal clock, but it does not operate like one, eventually going out of control and swinging back and forth on the wall. Similarly, on the surface the play looks like a normal play, but it does not operate like one.

In addition to the actual set, there were other elements of the visual appearance of the play that contributed to the feeling of absurdity. I was surprised by the effect that the lighting had on the general mood of what was going on. As things got more and more absurd, the lighting grew dimmer and changed colors a bit, creating a feeling of unease or abnormality. Occasionally a spotlight was used for dramatic effect, but what was being dramatized by the use of the spotlight was impossible to differentiate from the absurd drama of every other scene that it just added to the disjointed humor. The set and lighting subtly created the feeling of one losing touch with reality, without fully letting go of it.

The costumes were realistic to what people in the 50s might actually wear, and I think having the characters look relatively normal made a nice contrast to the way they were behaving. By making the characters seem like rational and proper adults, it only made what was actually going on all the more absurd.

The set was not very elaborate, and neither were the costumes, props or lighting, but the combination of these things was just the right balance of normal and abnormal. It left me second guessing what was normal and what was askew and I think this was a fitting sensation to experience during this particular play.

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