The Bald Soprano

by Megan Powell
Time Out Chicago

When he mused that The Bald Soprano was a kind of “tragedy of language,” Eugène Ionesco probably wasn’t anticipating a Hypocrites production that hurls insults like “wenis,” or a character who cracks open a Pabst and declares that it’s “beer-thirty.” It also didn’t much matter that a footlight was shattered during a recent preview performance. The cast quickly summoned a stagehand, an actor handed the audience member closest to the broken glass a few bucks, and director Graney hollered from the house to “just keep going.” This remount of the Hypocrites’ first-ever production, originally staged a decade back at the old Café Voltaire on Clark, is that fast and loose.

The Bald Soprano might be intuitively staged in ambiguous shades of gray, trite dialogue dripping with gentility to emphasize Ionesco’s belief in the futility of language, but the Hypocrites render the increasingly frustrating verbal maneuvers of an English suburban household in thick, comedic brushstrokes of black and white, dotted with pop references from Eric Carmen to Neil Patrick Harris. The banal textbook Ionesco used while learning English inspired him to write the play and call it English Without Pain —until (reportedly) an actor uttered the non sequitur that became an even more appropriate Absurdist play title. Graney and his expert cast members, who are as dexterous with stillness as they are balls-out with slapstick, attack Ionesco’s “antiplay” just as blithely. And if the entire set (a ginormous clock and even bigger bookcase) tumbles down at some point during the run, there’s no doubt they’ll “just keep going.”

***** out of 6 stars