Keeping in line with the theme of “fringe” theater, Second Thought Theatre brings an original Eugene Ionesco’s absurdist one-act, The Lesson, to the Out of the Loop Festival.
Based around the simple premise of a professor (David Lugo) providing tutoring to a young pupil (Anastasia Munoz), The Lesson follows a similar path to most of Ionesco’s work, focusing on the fallacies of human communication, the impossibility of ideology and the ever-present pain of living.
Second Thought fully embraces the absurd, anti-theater nature of Ionesco’s work in the performers’ characterizations. Lugo disappears inside the painfully restrained yet innocently menacing professor. Abigail Herring, as the professor’s maid is a psycho-sexual monster hottie, serving as the professor’s caretaker in more ways than simply doing the dishes. And Munoz’s pupil is the embodiment of anti-theater, deftly playing with Ionesco’s intentionally liberal use of non sequiturs before hurdling uncontrollably towards mortality in the play’s shocking conclusion.
Director Mac Lower’s stage design and specific distribution between real and pantomimed props is deceptively simple. What at first seems like merely abstract elements contributing to an abstract story turn out to be a grisly exclamation point.
Ultimately, Ionesco isn’t for everyone. But he should be. His control over and deep understanding of language and its natural absurdities is unparalleled. And though his blending of comedy with tragedy can be unsettling to an unsuspecting audience, it is perhaps the most accurate representation of the human condition ever captured on the stage. Because for all of theater’s focus on social realism, Ionesco’s acceptance of the inherently flawed nature of human communication and society is the truest reality we’re most afraid to hear.
Second Thought has given The Lesson the kind of treatment it deserves, continually keeping an eye on the anti-theater notions of Ionesco while maintaining an engrossing and entertaining story. For true fans of theater, this is a must-see.
◊ Click the calendar link above to see future performances for The Lesson, which plays in the Addison Theatre Centre's Studio Theatre. View a full Out of the Loop Fringe Festival schedule here.