What? We’re All the Same

The UMF production of Eugene Ionesco’s “The Bald Soprano” was an excellent portrayal of the absurd, while not losing its audience. The comedic aspect of the play was effective, since some of the exchanges between the characters mirrored life. The opening scene between Mrs. Smith and her newspaper-reading husband was almost a familiar trope, where the husband acknowledges the wife he isn’t listening to go on and on about something to fill the silence. In this particular instance, Mr. Smith comments on the fact that the ages of the newborn are never listed but the ages are always listed in the obituaries. Mrs. Smith agrees with him which is perplexing because though she may be expected to agree as a wife, the age of a newborn baby is obvious. The conversation only gets more absurd when Mr. Smith announces the death of Bobby Watson. It would be assumed that he read it in the newspaper in his hands but then it seems he died a long time ago – but the length of the time always changes. Then there is a clarification between the couple to determine who exactly died. They use relationships to describe who is who which is generally how people would figure out who they’re talking about. In this case, all of the people they’re talking about are named Bobby Watson which gets funnier as you realize that literally everyone in this family has the same name. Again, this is almost how real life would be – just one or two things are off. The rest of the play progresses much the same.

There are increasingly more absurd moments, but a good portion of the interactions are nearly conventional. The end of the play is when it gets really weird. The characters start chanting common phrases but they lose all reality. The set reflects this break with flickering lights and the breaking of the clock. Had the play started out so odd, the audience would have been lost. The buildup of absurdity was steady enough to make it practically expected that the characters could lose their minds. Had the play ended after the lights went dark, the end would be a neat and tidy shipment to the looney bin. That is why I think the end is the best part – the repetition of the beginning of the play with Mr. and Mrs. Martin (if that’s who they really are) doing the same thing as the Smiths makes the audience question what everything they’d seen means. How many times do people sit in their living rooms knitting or reading the paper and have the same conversations? This production compared to the script we read in class was funnier, because watching the absurd is easier than reading it. The characters were Americanized which doesn’t make too much of a difference because if the Martins can replace the Smiths, their nationality doesn’t matter very much. This could be translated into any language and be relatable since the themes are universal.

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