THE BALD SOPRANO and THE LESSON by Eugene Ionesco, Soprano directed by Jim Warren, with Brenda Robins, John Blackwood, Kristen Thomson, Martha Burns, Michael Hanrahan and William Webster; Lesson directed by Chris Abraham, with Thomson, Liisa Repo-Martell and Tony Nardi. Presented by Soulpepper and Harbourfront Centre at the du Maurier Theatre Centre (231 Queen's Quay West). Runs to September 22, Monday-Saturday 8 pm, matinees Wednesday and Saturday 2 pm. $25-$43.50. 416-973-4000. Rating: NNNN
when you push logic to extremes the result can turn into complete nonsense, as absurdist playwright Eugene Ionesco proves. Sometimes the result is laughable, sometimes shocking.Logic stood on its head does a triple-gainer into the deep end of the comedy pool in The Bald Soprano, concocted out of old English lessons and the empty niceties of social interaction. The sometimes petulant Smiths (Brenda Robins and John Blackwood) entertain the more playful Martins (Martha Burns and Michael Hanrahan) with the help of their philosophical maid (Kristen Thomson) and an unexpected guest, the fire chief (William Webster).
Wordplay, weird associations and empty aphorisms fill their conversation, which is expertly staged and given a strong sense of rhythm and emotion -- even the nonsense lines -- by director Jim Warren.
In The Lesson, a far more chilling piece, a professor (Tony Nardi) tries to ready his pupil (Liisa Repo-Martell) for her "total doctorate" and ends up imposing an exercise in fascistic control. Repo-Martell is an Alice-in-Wonderland schoolgirl who's gone farther down the rabbit hole than she intended. Nardi -- an actor we don't see onstage often enough -- begins as a docile teacher, eyeglasses perched on the edge of his nose, but his excitement over subtraction and the philology of neo-Spanish soon turns lethal.
Thomson is again a maid -- this time sourer, though still with her own measure of household control. And in director Chris Abraham's hands, the text becomes a piece of chamber music, building to a crescendo and climax with more than a touch of the sexual. theatre reviews