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BWW Review: THE CHAIRS at Shakespeare & Company

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Not the Typical Cup of Tea

BWW Review: THE CHAIRS  at Shakespeare & Company
Barbara Sims, Malcolm Ingram
Photo: Daniel Rader

Theatre of the Absurd is a post-World War II designation for particular plays of absurdist fiction written by a number of primarily European playwrights in the late 1950s. It is also a term for the style of theatre the plays represent. The plays focus largely on ideas of existentialism and express what happens when human existence lacks meaning or purpose and communication breaks down. The structure of the plays is typically a round shape, with the finishing point the same as the starting point. Logical construction and argument give way to irrational and illogical speech and to the ultimate conclusion - silence.[1] Well known plays of the style include Jean-Paul Sartre's NO EXIT and Samuel Beckett's WATING for GODOT.

BWW Review: THE CHAIRS  at Shakespeare & Company
Malcom Ingram
Photo: Daniel Rader

THE CHAIRS is an absurdist "tragic farce" by Eugène Ionesco. It was written in 1952 and debuted the same year. THE CHAIRS concerns two characters, known as Old Man and Old Woman, frantically preparing chairs for a series of invisible guests who are coming to hear an orator reveal the Old Man's discovery. It is implied that this discovery is the meaning of life, but it is never actually said. The guests supposedly include "everyone", implying everyone in the world; there are other implications that this is a post-apocalyptic world. The Old Man, for example, speaks of the destruction of Paris. The invisibility of the guests implies that the Old Man and Old Woman are the last two people on the planet. As the "guests" arrive, the two characters speak to them and reminisce cryptically about their lives.

BWW Review: THE CHAIRS  at Shakespeare & Company
Barbara Sims
Photo: Daniel Rader

The role of Old Man is played by Malcom Ingram, Old Woman by Barbara Sims. The production is directed by James Warwick with Set Design by John Musall, Lighting Design by James Bilnoski, Sound Design by Amy Altadonna. Stage Manager is Hope Rose Kelly, and JJ Devis Assistant Stage Manager.

I have often written that good theatre makes us think and THE CHAIRS will certainly do that. In this case, perhaps a bit too much for some. The message itself is unclear and undoubtedly dependent upon that which we bring to the work. Whether it speaks to you of love, gratitude, the meaning of life itself, well that remains to be seen and perhaps felt. THE CHAIRS continues at The Tina Packer Playhouse on the campus of Shakespeare & Company in Lennox, Massachusetts Through October 31. Visit: https://www.shakespeare.org/ for tickets and information.

BWW Review: THE CHAIRS  at Shakespeare & Company
Malcom Rodgers, Barbara Smith
Photo: Daniel Rader

1. The Hutchinson Encyclopedia, Millennium Edition, Helicon 1999.


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