Tinfish Productions, at the Greenview Arts Center.
A manufacturing mogul is brought to his knees by the criticism of his employees. A job applicant is tortured and humiliated by his interviewer. An artist is coerced by a philistine patron to distort his creation beyond recognition. Two suburban couples spend a pleasant evening babbling vacuous nonsense.
The key to performing these brief absurdist comedies–Harold Pinter’s Trouble in the Works and Applicant, Samuel Beckett’s Catastrophe, and Eugene Ionesco’s The Bald So-prano–is to play the material perfectly straight, the better to point up its satirical illogic. But in Tinfish Productions’ “Night of Absurdia,” their collective title for these four works, they ignore this principle. Instead they trot out their catalog of looney-tunes low-comedy shtick: mugging, leering, pseudo-heroic postures, redundant onomatopoeia (“We’re sitting on hot coals–ssssss!”), schoolroom-level sexuality (in this production Beckett’s statement on government censorship of the arts is rendered as a Disclosure knockoff), and more self-indulgent overacting than you’d find in a cattle call for Mel Brooks.
Goofy people doing ordinary things can be funny. Ordinary people doing goofy things can be funny. Goofy people doing goofy things is merely exhausting. There’s evidence of talent among the Tinfish folk, but one must look carefully through the clutter to find it.