by Eugene Ionesco
Second Thought Theatre
Directed by Mac Lower
David Lugo - Professor
Anastasia Munoz - Pupil
Abigail Herring - Maid
Reviewed Performance 3/5/2011
Reviewed by Mary L. Clark, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
What joy it was when I simply sat back and allowed a play to completely captivate me without the pressure to "get it" or make any more sense of it than that it was absurd. As in Theatre of the Absurd and Eugene Ionesco was its god. He was the forward thinking playwright of his time with his early one-acts being the most innovative. Ionesco's continuing premise was in the insignificance of the human existence. He used surreal comic situations and parodied what he referred to as bourgeoisie conventional theatre.
One of his absurdist pieces, The Lesson, mixed surrealism and comedy with an underlying psychological current. A simple lesson between pupil and professor started out routinely, quickly became nonsensical and unnerving then took a violent turn with a jolting social twist at the end.
For six years, Second Thought Theatre had brought, as the playbill states, "fresh, provocative theatre" and, for its seventh year, selected this not-often produced, provocative one act and made it fresh again.
I could imagine the delight Director Mac Lower had working with such talented actors. He wisely condensed the piece to a smart 45 minutes and made an interesting casting selection. As the maid, in what was normally cast as an older, stout woman, Lower used young Abigail Herring whose maid was seductive and more than a bit scary.
Anastasia Munoz was both physically and comically perfect for Pupil. Playing her with a high energy, eager to learn "her lesson", Munoz's physical precision kept you engaged in her every move. Ionesco portrayed his dehumanized world by giving the characters mechanical characteristics and Munoz sustained long, slow floating movements while seated. Her timing was precise with clipped lines and rapid fire dialogue which added to the mechanical rhythm.
I could not think, for the life of me, of a better actor, in our area, to cast as Professor than David Lugo. Part Groucho Marx, part Jerry Lewis, this natural-made comedian had grandeur in his voice, ballet in his movements and the comic timing of the comedy greats. From the moment he peeked around the side partition, Lugo kept the audience mesmerized. Lower understood and conveyed to his actors Ionesco's insistence on repetitive rhythm with his words and the result was ridiculously joyful to hear.
The Lesson was usually performed along with The Bald Soprano as a longer evening of absurdist theatre and it was refreshing to see this shorter version stand so solidly on its own. Second Thought Theatre produced an easy evening of Absurdist theatre and one of the finer performances of the festival and the year.
Second Thought Theatre
continues on Thursday, March 10th at 7:30 pm