by Scott C. Morgan
Windy City Times
You’ll hear this warning repeatedly upon entering the processional playing area for The Hypocrites’ 10th anniversary production of Eugene Ionesco’s absurdist comedy The Bald Soprano. Why the warning? That’s because there are two rows of light bulbs popping up out of stage floor on the way to your seats.
You can also apply the warning to the metaphorical bright-idea light bulbs shining brightly over the heads of the entire Hypocrites production team of The Bald Soprano. Heed that light-bulb warning, since this creative comic production will leave you in stitches.
In terms of plot, there’s not a lot. A British couple, Mr. and Mrs. Smith ( Kurt Ehrmann and Mechelle Moe ) , argues while the sarcastic maid ( Jennifer Santanello ) scurries about. Then the Smiths are joined by the tardy dinner guests, Mr. and Mrs. Martin ( Steve Wilson and Samantha Gleisten ) , before a machismo-filled fire chief ( Ryan Bollettino ) crashes the dinner party.
But plot isn’t the main concern here. Ionesco finds humor in the fact that language and meaning can mean different things to different people. And since there is so much misunderstanding in the world, there’s lots of humor to be mined in The Bald Soprano.
This play is particularly special to The Hypocrites. The Bald Soprano was the company’s very first production in 1997, and it’s apparent that there is plenty of love and joyful nostalgia at revisiting the material a decade later.
Director Sean Graney has assembled a sparkling cast ( largely drawn from The Hypocrites ensemble ) who can spur belly laughs from the smallest of facial expressions and uncomfortable pauses. Each of the couples plays off marvelously as sparring husbands and wives, and each take Graney’s challenge to throw in modernistic improvisational touches to make this classic 20th-century play breathe as if it were penned yesterday.
Even the whimsical designs of Courtney O’Neill ( sets ) and Graney ( costumes ) are stylish odes to the printed page since everything is painted in blacks, whites and grays. Michael Griggs’ startling sound design ( loud clock chimes and doorbells ) , plus Jared Moore’s bright lighting in turquoise blues and hot pinks, also add to the stylish nonsensical world on stage.
Now just what does it all mean? Let’s just leave interpreting the message (if there is one ) of The Bald Soprano up to you. Even if you don’t discern a concrete message, the journey to that hectic, screaming ending is a constant stream of laughs and guffaws that makes The Hypocrites’ Bald Soprano a beautifully coiffed comic masterpiece.