review by Janet I. Martineau
photo by Katrina Robinson
photo by Katrina Robinson
A capacity audience nearly laughed itself to death Tuesday night when Saginaw Valley State University opened its four-night run of “Absurd Person Singular.”
Quite an accomplishment given the fact it deals with such dark issues as infidelity, attempted suicide, depression, alcoholism, economic downturn, bullying, gossiping, and the ups and downs of friendship.
|Jordan Stafford and Mykaela Hopps in an Act II scene|
Quite an accomplishment there too, given the fact “Absurd” is of the farce genre. It hovers delicately and beautifully between the stark reality of our lives and being too broad in making light of it.
The 2 1/2 hours simply flew by as director Tommy Wedge and his six cast members totally delivered the goods in portraying three English couples suffering through through three Christmas parties (last, this and next).
Act II, dealing with attempted suicide, was one of the funniest farcical acts I’ve ever seen and the cast’s timing of it was impeccable.
Presented in the snug Black Box Theater, every nuance and inflection is “in your face” from the actors ... as well as the acrid smell of bug spray and even a drop of water from a kitchen sink encounter.
Mykaela Hopps delivers stony stares and chilling looks that could kill, and her silence and physicality in Act II gets funnier and funnier the longer it continues. Jordan Stafford’s double takes are hilarious. Rustin Myers squints his eyes as if nearly blind when trying to read something and pushes his head backward when intimidating his wife.
Jessica Rockwell is a riot donning her rain gear, emptying her oversized galoshes of rain water, cleaning the oven, cowering when her hubby bellows. With Erica Tatum it is a bored and sarcastic roll of the eyes. And when David Ryan gets an electric jolt, his shakes never stop.
Part of the fun is to divert the eyes from the person or persons speaking, the focus of the action, and watch instead the silent actors reacting -- always in total character. Fun, too, is watching the audience members watching -- since this thrust stage puts them right across from you with the actors in between.
Simply put, there is more than the eye can often take in with this show since there are bits of business everywhere.
Physical antics and body English aside, the Alan Ayckbourn script also sports more than a few hilarious lines. “Sexual flying Dutchman” is one. A few others are politically incorrect so we won’t repeat them. And when the Hopps character finally finds her “voice,” yikes!
A piece of advice if you go see the show -- DO NOT leave the theater during the two short intermissions. Watching the crew, director Wedge himself among them, is every bit as entertaining as they quickly transform the set since the three-scene show takes place in three dwellings. Washing machines are shoved out and ovens in. A huge dog crate replaces a storage cabinet. Christmas trees change. A huge kitchen island is shoved to the other end to serve as a work island.
And what is that set-changing crew wearing for this dark comedy....black stocking caps with Bah Humbug! written on them.
A fun time at the theater, with a little bite to it for good measure, does not come come much better than this production.