I just love Ionescu's work. It makes me laugh. On the surface there is a childish simplicity both in the way he views situations and also within his construct, however, what he actually offers is a complex alternative to the standard accepted view of life. Beyond what can be considered as basic humour there is the sadness and melancholy of a man who despairs at the way the world considers everything in two dimensions, a system of control promoted by politicians throughout history and that continues today. Read Ionescu and discover a new view point.
I bought to be able to broaden my knowledge of absurdist monologues that i could perform after summer when i go into the second year of my acting course. I love absurdist theatre and so far Ionesco has not disappointed. Currently making my way through The Bald Soprano and love, hopefully the others will be just as good, if not better..
These plays are so funny that the words become animate right there on the page. The Bald Soprano is a genius look at life through the equally twisted mediums of a) a British couple and b) primary ESL phrases. The Lesson says everything about the teacher/student relationship that there is to say, and unlike those four years of college, is comparatively briefer and incomparably pithier. Jack is Ionesco's takeoff on marriage, an already bizarre and inhuman relationship to begin with, but stripped of the phoniness and presented unsalted, unseasoned, oozing and raw. Mr. Allen's translation is so good it's...funny. You will enjoy reading these plays, or have to face the fact that you and great literature were not cut out for one another.
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Ionesco was a master of the absurd and the plays in this volume are some of the best, particularly 'The Bald Soprano' (his first play) and 'The Chairs'. Unbelievably Ionesco himself didn't realise that 'The Bald Soprano' was comedy until it was first performed and it's title ("La Cantatrice Chauve") was only adopted following a mistake by one of the actors performing in the production.
'The Bald Soprano' takes place over one evening at the house of Mr and Mrs Smith who have invited their friends Mr and Mrs Martin over for dinner. These characters are joined by the Smiths' maid, Mary, who at one point declares herself to be Sherlock Holmes and the local fire chief. The play tackles the banalities of modern life, characterised by the meaningless banter between the characters. The concepts of time and language are also targets of Ionesco's absurdist philosophy.
In the lesson, language is again the tackled by the author. In this case the meaning behind words and how language can be used as a tool of power. It takes place in the flat of The Professor who is expecting a new pupil. The Professor is old and weak at the start of the play but grows stronger throughout with his use of language while the pupil is progressively weakened. Again, the play is very funny through the way it deals with the challenges of language and its use of non-sequiturs (a common characteristic of Ionesco's plays).
In 'Jack, or the Submission' , Jack is encouraged by his family, the Jack family, to marry Roberta, who has two noses. But Jack insists that two noses is not enough and that he will only marry a woman with three noses. Luckily the Roberta's family, the Roberts, have a second daughter Roberta II with three noses. However, Jack still resists until he is won over by a nonsensical story told by Roberta II. Once more the play plays with language.
Finally, 'The Chairs' is a more obvious analysis of the meaning of existence. Throughout the play the Old Man and Old Woman are preparing for the arrival of an Orator who will explain the meaning of life. Invisible dignitaries arrive throughout and the stage begins to fill with empty chairs until the Old Man and Old Woman can hardly move. When the moment arrives the Old Man and Old Woman commit suicide. It then turns ou that the Orator is a dumb deafmute.
All of Ionesco's plays are brilliantly funny in their dealings with language and existence and have become an important part of the Absurdist movement, which in many respects is still relevant today.
The translations by Donald M. Allen are good and are the earliest American translation of the plays. Because of the ways in which Ionesco uses language - sometimes resorting to sounds over meaning - certain passages are very difficult to translate and here the translator is mainly successful. When compared with Donald Watson's translations (the original British translations), certain aspects work better and some less well. Before deciding to perform these plays, at least both of these translations should be considered.
Ionesco's "la cantantrice chauve" (the Bald Soprano ) is one of absourd theater classic plays. It is a play that everybody who is interested in theater should read. with increadable characters and a unvilivable script, the Bald singer inmortalized Ionesco
"The Bald Soprano" was the first play I ever performed in. Thus began my fascination with, and utmost respect for Ionesco's work. This book became my bible for nearly two years, and as a playwright, I am sure that in the future my themes will be traced back to the plays in this volume. From crossing satire and disgust in "The Bald Soprano" to humor and sympathy in "The Chairs," Ionesco undoubtedly altered theater in the latter part of this century. This book is not only essential to a theater-lover's collection, but it also belongs in the libraries of all serious students of literature.