BWW Reviews: Fast-Moving Vaudeville IONESCOPADE Takes a Very Funny Look at the Ridiculous Nature of Life
It only goes to show you what a wacky world we're living in when the bizarre shenanigans Eugène Ionesco created more than half a century ago now seem ordinary. The French-Romanian playwright was a pioneer in the theater of the absurd, presenting comedies with outlandishly implausible scenarios, such as people turning into rhinoceroses, an entire British family with the same name, and mobs adoring a headless dictator. These kooky elements were designed to satirize what Ionesco saw as dangerous political and social trends, exposing them to ridicule. But today, with talent-free gold diggers becoming millionaires on reality TV, Ionesco's nutsy proceedings can appear positively tame.
Taken from the plays, playlets, journals and poetry of "Theatre of the Absurd" playwright Eugène Ionesco (Rhinoceros, The Bald Soprano, Exit the King), IONESCOPADE is a zany musical vaudeville featuring mime, farce and parody - all hilariously balanced on The Edge of madness. With music and lyrics by Mildred Kayden, original concept by Robert Allan Ackerman, the current production at the Odyssey Theatre Ensemble is directed and choreographed by Bill Castellino, with musical direction by Gerald Sternbach, produced by artistic director Ron Sossi.
Composer/lyricist Mildred Kayden was Ionesco's guest in his Paris apartment while creating the work, and they remained friends until his death in 1994. "Ionesco was always very loving and warm," says Kayden, now 90. "He always insisted that life is funny. We need to look at life and find the humor in it, or we can't take it."
The episodic IONESCOPADE is a fast-moving vaudeville, a little naughty and very, very funny look at the ridiculous nature of life. The show is performed in two acts with the continuity facilitated by a silent character called the Writer (mime wizard Alan Abelew), who represents Ionesco while the others in the show are characters acting out his works. It's silly evening of non-sequitors (much like life is today for all of us) starring Alan Abelew, Andrew Ableson, Joey D'Auria, Cristina Gerla, Kelly Lester, Tom Lowe, and Jennifer Malenke, all talented actors, singers, dancers, and mime artists.
There are so many wonderful vignettes in the show including Tom Lowe singing "Everyone is Like Me" while changing characters with his body language and the addition of a moustache, then an earring, a hat, lipstick, and the most outrageous sparkly high-heeled boots ever. I have no idea how he can walk in them let alone sing and dance! A tour-de-force performance. Standout solos are "Madeleine" sung by Andrew Ableson, the beautiful "Josette" sung by Joey D'Auria, the touching "The Saga of the Prima Ballerina" by Kelly Lester, and "Fire" by Jennifer Malenke. There is a brilliant song and dance duet "Surprising People" performed as clowns by Cristina Gerla and Tom Lowe.
By juggling three scarves which he turns into the British flag, the Writer leads us into the ensemble number "Bobby Watson and Family" in which every character is named Bobby Watson. As each is introduced, he/she describes how they are related to the others. Of course it is impossible to keep track of who is who, but all that really matters is absurdity of each having the same name. Clever costuming using red polka dots enhanced the silliness of the number and each actor thoroughly enjoyed his/her moment in the spotlight during this ode to Ionesco's The Bald Soprano.
I loved the choreography in "Knocks" and the mysteriously appearing eggs in "The Cooking Lesson." And when the writer moved through the audience handing out flyers prior to a song, I am happy to say I was lucky enough to receive one that says "The Best is Yet to Be!" which I plan to put on my refrigerator door to remind me that a bit of laughter can brighten the darkest of days. I am sure you will feel the same way after laughing your way through IONESCOPADE.
Odyssey Theatre 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd. Los Angeles CA 90025, May 31-August 11, 2013
Wednesdays @ 8 pm: June 19, July 17, July 31 ONLY
Thursdays @ 8 pm: June 13, 27, July 11, 25 ONLY
Fridays @ 8 pm: May 31, June 7, 14, 21, 28, July 5, 12, 19, 26, Aug. 2, 9
Saturdays @ 8 pm: June 1, 8, 15, 22, 29, July 6, 13, 20, 27: Aug. 3, 10
Sundays @ 2 pm: June 9, 16, 23, 30, July 7, 14, 21, 28, Aug. 4, 11
Sundays @ 5 pm: June 2 ONLY
Tickets: (310) 477-2055 ext. 2 or www.OdysseyTheatre.com All performances except $30 except opening weekend May 31, June 1 and June 2: $34 (includes a reception with the actors)