“Absurd Person Singular”
SVSU Black Box Theatre
7:30pm Tuesday-Friday (July 10-13)
$10, ($7 seniors and students)
by Janet I. Martineau
Three couples, three kitchens, three Christmas Eve parties...and as the plot thickens, the lower class duo of the trio rises to the top of an ever-evolving social status roster.
That, in a nutshell, is the plotline of “Absurd Person Singular,” a 1972 British play opening a four-night run Tuesday at Saginaw Valley State University.
“It has lots of layers,” says director Tommy Wedge of the Alan Ayckbourn play. “It is a farcical tragic comedy. I hope people who come and see it laugh hard and have a good time....but then have something to think about when they go home because a lot just doesn’t sit right.
“I think this is one of the hardest comedies (to stage) out there. And it is an ensemble work. There are six characters in this play and all six are lead roles. All the parts are equally challenging as the play explores their relationships to each other.”
|From left, Rustin Myers, Erica Tatum, David Ryan, Jessica Rockwell|
Including the second act during which one of the characters speaks not a single word AND tries to end her life seven times “but the rest of the characters are so self-absorbed they don’t realize what she is doing.
"The second act is the most farcical act but the characters all take it seriously. They are so busy trying to look happy that they forget to be happy.”
What the audience witnesses is “behind the scenes” dialogue. The actual Christmas parties are taking place offstage; the action is set is the kitchen, where the real dirt is dished up in “private.”
And in a nod, perhaps, to Charles Dickens and “A Christmas Carol,” the time periods are Last Christmas, This Christmas and Next Christmas.
“Last Christmas” is set in the lower class home of Jane and Sidney Hopcrofts, who are anxiously giving a party for their bank manager and an architect neighbor and their wives. The Hopcrofts are played by SVSU seniors Jessica Rockwell and Rustin Myers.
“This Christmas” shifts to the kitchen of the architect and his wife, Geoffrey and Eva Jackson, in a flat menaced by their huge, psychotic dog George. The Jacksons are played by SVSU junior Jordan Stafford and sophomore Mykaela Hopps.
And in Next Christmas” the action moves to the upper class Victorian home of the bank manager and his wife, Ronald and Marion Brewster-Wright, They are played by SVSU junior David Ryan and Erica Tatum, currently a student at Kirtland Community College but who will transfer to SVSU in the winter term.
Each act, says Wedge, also has a huge ongoing joke in progress.
-- Wedge says all six actors have been strongly coached on speaking a proper British English dialect.
-- Given the small space of SVSU’s Black Box Theater, the three very different kitchens will be more minimal than totally detailed. Since the play’s script does not assign years, Wedge and crew are setting it in the 1990s.
-- The fine line that the show is a farce but not a farce, says Wedge. Rather than use the typical farce device of many doors opening and closing, he says, the playwright employs pauses as well as synchronizing off-stage party talk with the door that opens to the kitchen.
As for the title, Wedge advises not trying to make sense of it in light of the action. It has no connection to the play, he says, but instead was a stock title Ayckbourn applied to it, plucked from an earlier abandoned play and before he had written a single word.