Theater Review: THE BALD SOPRANO (Cutting Ball Theater in San Francisco)

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by Harvey Perr on June 9, 2019

in Theater-San Francisco / Bay Area


If you’ve ever seen a production of Eugene Ionesco’s The Bald Soprano that had you in stitches from practically the very first moment right through the absolutely nutty ending just before it begins — horrors! — all over again, it doesn’t take more than five minutes into Cutting Ball Theater’s signature production to wonder if it is indeed the same play. I even saw a production in a small theater in London that was played straight with nobody doing one funny thing that had me laughing myself silly in its understanding that dead seriousness is the best way to find the extraordinary in the ordinary.

What the Rob Melrose version has is some nice directorial touches and comic ideas, played by a cast that had learned its lines, does what their director told them to do (and occasionally hitting the exact tone) and mostly mistaking shtick for character work. Mug and the world doesn’t necessarily mug with you. The cast might try seeing the A.C.T. production of Rhinoceros to see that in order for the comic and the horrific to come together in a meaningful way, the characters must be grounded in reality so that when they become outrageous, we can discover that the outrageous is, in Ionesco’s world, the norm.

Or they can just take a look at what one of their fellow actors is doing. Late in the play, a fire captain arrives. He doesn’t have big fires to put out but he sure knows how to stoke lots of inner fires. And, as played by Douglas Nolan, he has you laughing hysterically without doing very much. It is because when he walks in, he is so immersed in the character he has created, he doesn’t have to do much. And we are still laughing even when what he has to say isn’t particularly funny or even comprehensible. I would say his performance embodies the Ionesco style. It’s not real for a single moment and it is the most realistic performance of the evening. It is, at the risk of being redundant, totally human and totally absurd.

That, it seems to me, is exactly what is needed to let Ionesco come to brilliant life.

photo courtesy of Cutting Ball
poster art by Andrea Bergen

The Bald Soprano
Cutting Ball Theater
EXIT on Taylor, 277 Taylor Street in San Francisco
Wed & Thurs at 7; Fri and Sat at 8; Sun at 2
ends on June 16, 2019
for tickets, call 415.525.1205 or visit Cutting Ball

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