The father of Theatre of the Absurd has been getting a lengthy tribute in New York that ends Dec. 16, after four months at various downtown venues. Twenty-seven Off and Off-Off-Broadway theatres joined forces for the Ionesco Festival which began Sept. 6 and was to end Dec. 1 but extended to Dec. 16.
A combination of 39 of the Romanian playwright’s most famous and lesser-known works have been on the agenda, including 20 full-length productions, among them: Rhinoceros (produced by Untitled Theater Company #61); Exit the Kind (Pearl Theatre); a return engagement of Sanctuary Theater’s The Picture; Israel Horovitz’s adaptation of Man With Bags (Looking Glass Theater, extended to Dec. 16); Spanish-language productions of The Future Is in Eggs and Jack, or the Submission (Mexico’s Investigadores del Arte); and The New Tenant and a new translation of The Viscount (Gemini CollisionWorks).
Other offerings included a reading of The Chairs featuring Celeste Holm (Nov. 4 only at the Players Club) and Charles Marowitz's translation of Macbett, a dark-hearted spoof of Shakespeare's Macbeth. Prior to each performance, one of 12 short plays was staged on a rotating basis, including a translation of Conversation Exercises, a French textbook Ionesco wrote for American students.
A festival spokesperson at the Spin Cycle office told Playbill On-Line (Dec. 12) the event's best sellers were the best-known works, Rhinoceros and The Chairs, though Man With Bags and Macbett were "close behind." Critically, Rhinoceros and The Chairs did very well, said the spokesperson, as did the audience favorite, Jack, or the Submission by the Lost Tribes company.
Asked about the Festival managing to weather the world events of this autumn, the spokesperson said, "Sales were really strong in the beginning.. Then of course, you had Sept. 11th, and obviously no one could get below 14th Street for several weeks, but it rallied during the last few weeks, and shows have done really well in November and December." In fact, there's already talk of devoting a festival to a different playwright next year, though no specifics are yet available. Born in Romania, Eugene Ionesco (1912-1994) moved to Paris in 1938. His work focused on the struggle of people to survive in a society that he thought created barriers between them.
Performances will be spread out across 13 Manhattan theatres. Tickets are $15, except for Exit the King ($28-35). For more information and a complete schedule, call (212) 387-2043 or visit www.ionescofestival.com.
— by Diane Snyder and David Lefkowitz