I found much to enjoy in Ionescopade, an impeccably-cast musical revue celebrating the absurdist comedy of playwright Eugene Ionesco (1909-1994). He had an incisive way of poking fun at authority, and this revue includes a couple of his complete playlets—The Leader and The Peace Conference, which are among the high points of the show—plus snippets and adaptations of other Ionesco works. In The Leader, a fawning constituent gives us a play-by-play of everything the revered leader is doing, from hugging a child to stroking a hedgehog; that the leader happens to have no head does not bother his followers. Mildred Kayden’s ebullient music and lyrics are up-and-down—not always as strong as Ionesco’s own words. She succeeds in capturing his spirit most completely in a number about a musical family—every member of which is named Bobby Watson. (The striking black-and-white costumes by Nicole Wee help put that scene across, too.)
Some of the material has not aged well. (I could have done without all references to Mother Peep.) Some of the bits, though, are timeless. I rather liked the pompous lesson on how to cook an egg (and also the endless supply of eggs being magically produced from the mouth of one character). It’s a solid ensemble cast: Nancy Anderson, Paul Binotto, Samuel Cohen, David Edwards, Leo Ash Evens, Susan J. Jacks, Tina Stafford. Director Bill Castellino has found people who not only understand this kind of material; most of them have such interesting, offbeat looks, they seem like they belong in an Ionesco play.
(Pictured: Samuel Cohen (seated) Tina Stafford, Susan J. Jacks, Paul Binotto, David Edwards, Nancy Anderson, Leo Ash Evens; photo by Ben Strothman)
February 11, 2012