Monday, May 15, 2017

Irish Absurdism at the Motor House

Rapid Lemon Productions is currently presenting a double bill of Irish dramas at the Motor House, the sleekly remodeled successor to the old Load of Fun at the art hub of North Avenue and Howard.  Ably directed by Lance Bankerd, the program matches Samuel Beckett's nihilist classic Endgame with the recently written (American premiere) Voices in the Rubble by the emerging Irish playwright Darren Donohue.  The result is an intense and oddly entertaining foray into the absurd.

Donohue's opener plunges us into the surreal cocktail hour of middle-class Avril (Lee Condracci) and Tony (Zack Jackson).  In their chit-chat Tony calmly reveals that his boss just showed a ninety minute tape of Zack sexually assaulting the office secretary to the rest of the employees gathered in the boardroom.  Just as calmly Avril reveals that her day consisted in killing the postman---or was it Tony's brother?---and stuffing him into the refrigerator.  An intense young man (Matthew Lindsay Payne) suddenly springing from the refrigerator begs the couple to kill him but the incompetent duo can't figure out the right means.  A mysterious commanding gentleman who enters via the couch adds to the fun---or is he just an elder version of Tony?

Condracci and Jackson give riveting performances as the embroiled couple.  Their waltz-like movements as they dart off to Paris, Sweden, or China are highlights of carefully choreographed performances.  Unfortunately, Donohue's script is weakened at key points by puerile sexual chatter.

Endgame takes us back to Beckett's apocalyptic space in nowhere.  We are in a dark speck of a place beyond meaning and redemption.  There is only command and obedience, but the repetitious gestures lead nowhere.  Commanding is the crippled Hamm (Zack Jackson) and obeying is the limping Clov (Matthew Lindsay Payne).  Jackson and Payne marvelously complement each other.  The mindless, arbitrary joy of Jackson bounces off the angry, frustrated huffing and puffing of Payne.  Bankerd's direction brings out the vaudeville implicit in the duo.  Uproarious notes of humor suddenly erupt from a universe Hamm correctly describes as godless and pointless.


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