Friday, August 02, 2013

Review of "Absurd Person Singular" by Nora Theatre Company at the Central Square Theater

I have come to expect excellence when I go to see any show produced by Nora Theatre Company.  I was not disappointed when I took in their new production of "Absurd Person Singular."  Written by prolific British playwright, Alan Ayckbourn, this farcical send-up of domestic life in the UK touches many themes of class struggle and upward - or downward - mobility in economically challenging times.

The action takes places on three successive Christmas Eves, with each act set in a different home occupied by one of the three couples that populate the play.  The audience gets to witness three absurdly catastrophic Christmas parties.  Each character is absurd, failed and disconnected in their own singular way.  Hence, the title of the play.  Each of  the couples is struggling to keep their marriage together and to impress the other two couples, whom they feel they need in some way in order to climb the social ladder.  The writing is brilliant, and I found myself laughing aloud at frequent intervals at the witty dialogue and the sight gags.  There are a number of memorable incidents that stand out: a character being locked out of the flat and soaked in a London downpour, a endlessly barking dog, an electrocution, a drunken rant, and a failed attempt at suicidal defenestration.

Under the fine direction of Daniel Gidron, the pace of the play is perfect.  The set, designed by Brynna Bloomfield, is modular, and the complete change of kitchens from act to act was accomplished in record time by a very efficient stage crew.  The ensemble members are superbly cast in their roles.  Steven Barkhimer (Ronald), David Berger-Jones (Sidney), Stephanie Clayman (Marion), Samantha Evans (Jane), Liz Hayes (Eva) and Bill Mootos (Geoffrey) each contribute their own singular strain of absurdity to the fun that unfolds throughout the three acts. Ronald's facial expressions and tics as he seeks to recover from an electric shock are hilarious, as are the ham-handed ministrations of the other characters who seek to  keep him warm after his shock.  Marian's intensifying inebriation in the final act is brilliantly portrayed.  Jane's drowned rat look is memorable.  She was locked out of her own kitchen to stand in the rain while the party she is supposed to be hosting goes on with the others oblivious to her absence.

The lack of the ability of these characters to connect - to their spouses or to their "friends" - is both hilarious and chillingly sad.  The playwright is focusing the sword of his acerbic wit on the failure of British society to deal with the effects of economic depression and societal upheaval as the class system crumbles.

The play will run at the Central Square Theater through August 18.  It is worth a drive to Central  Square or an excursion on the Red Line to experience the brilliance of this troupe.

Link for Purchasing Tickets



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