"Two Comedic One-Acts"; Piedmont Virginia Community College; Through November 14


Kids these days sure do like their metatheater. It’s no surprise, then, that PVCC chose two modern classics of the genre—Eugène Ionesco’s The Bald Soprano and Christopher Durang’s The Actor’s Nightmare, as a back-to-back crash course in Absurdism.

You’ll never find a heartbreaking production of The Bald Soprano, a projected spoof of nonsensical domestic small talk. Staged with economy and wit, PVCC’s production hits the right notes in Tina Howe’s joyously-Americanized adaptation of Ionesco’s first play. While there are not any break-out performances, per se, the cast makes appropriate dedications to their roles and the direction is suitable. Early Ionesco can be perplexing, natch. Here, it is laden with laughs which, while not always the best choice, are completely delicious.

An intermezzo was presented which consisted of two scenes from The Bald Soprano performed entirely in French. This bit was a clear challenge for the actors—Alex Shannon and Ajah Courts were relief performers in the roles of Mademoiselle and Monsieur Martin—and the novelty of the exercise wore off quickly. The more the performers struggled with their lines, the more the audience wanted to be done with it.

Lastly, The Actor’s Nightmare, a play most commonly seen in undergraduate directing courses. Durang’s popular piece depicts a nightmare that is not unique to just actors: finding oneself alone on a stage in front of an audience without a lick of an idea as to what one is supposed to do. Adding to the grief is a queue of fellow performers who insist the protagonist has attended rehearsals that he cannot recall. In the lead as George Spelvin is Koda Kerl, a lanky young man who seems to have the proper mix of “aw, shucks” and go-for-it-ness to carry the role with relish. As the story moves haphazardly through Noel Coward, Shakespeare, Tenessee Williams and culminates in a hilarious mash-up of the Samuel Beckett oeuvre, the cast earnestly served the story and won some admiration along the way.

While the directing could have been more prescriptive and the acting more polished—no faulting college students for being cast as middle-aged adults—the totality of the evening was sharp, droll and delightful.