THE BALD SOPRANO, Hypocrites Theatrics, at Voltaire. A seminal first play, Eugene Ionesco’s 1948 one-act all but invented deconstruction–of language and society. Inspired by the cliched phrases of a foreign-language primer, the playwright strips bare the barren conversation of two suburban British couples, as the Smiths and the Martins indulge in the fatuous exchange of absurdist inanities. Ionesco’s Britishers are built entirely from conventions as empty as their blank newspapers, and their clockwork conversation bogs down in non sequiturs, tautologies, circular reasoning, dogged repetition, and talk so small it’s invisible.
In Sean Graney’s staging for Hypocrites Theatrics, the interchangeable couples, an officious maid, and a garrulous fire chief become loud, ludicrous cartoons. But the emphatic energy pays off: Ionesco lavished no subtlety on these silly folks. Shocks of recognition trigger all kinds of laughs in an alert audience: raucous, nervous, and–best of all–silent.
Though strangely bereft of British accents, Brandon Kruse and Julie Paparella make the quarrelsome Smiths dithering and delightful. And Colin Milroy and Mechelle Moe are hilarious as the absentminded Martins, who are reacquainted with each other and in effect re-create their marriage through the sheer coincidence of a shared life. Christopher Cintron mugs up a storm as the philandering fire chief, who easily ignites Carrie Vann’s salacious maid.