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Review: 'The Bald Soprano,' in a retro mood at City Garage

November 08, 2012|By Charlotte Stoudt
  • David E. Frank in "The Bald Soprano: A Christmas Anti-Play" at City Garage in Santa Monica
David E. Frank in "The Bald Soprano: A Christmas Anti-Play"… (Paul M. Rubenstein )

It looks like “Mad Men,” but you’d never catch Don Draper at this shindig. The City Garage staging of Eugene Ionesco’s midcentury absurdist farce “The Bald Soprano: A Christmas Anti-Play” has all the ingredients for intoxication but goes down like one of Sally’s Shirley Temples – it’s a classic but lacks a certain kick.

This is the world of low-profile sofas, smoking jackets and the screeching charm of the bourgeoisie. Somewhere in the Parisian suburbs, Mr. and Mrs. Smith (Jeff Atik and David E. Frank) are digesting dinner and trimming their Christmas tree. Enter Mr. and Mrs. Martin (Bo Roberts and Cynthia Mance), the guests the Smiths didn’t bother to wait for. Just when these four are about to strangle each other, a fireman shows up (Kenneth Rudnicki, alternating with Mitchell Colley) to make out with the Smith’s maid (Lena Kay).  

In our hyperlinked, attention-deficit culture, even the giddily nonsensical “Soprano” looks like an antique. The middle class it may have shocked are long gone. But consider this playful experiment in context: The constant, menacing chime of the Smith’s clock and doorbell are merely antecedents of the buzz and ping of our addictive electronic devices, promising us a connection to others without actually having to deal with them.

Director Frédèrique Michel’s production feels curiously respectful. Why not rewrite the whole thing and set it in an Apple store? Ionesco would approve.

“The Bald Soprano: A Christmas Anti-Play” City Garage, Building T1, Bergamot Station, 2525 Michigan Avenue, Santa Monica. Nov 1-23: 8:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, Nov. 30-Dec. 23: 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 4 p.m. Sundays. Ends Dec. 23. $25. Pay-What-You-Can Sundays. (310) 453-9939 or www.citygarage.org. Running time: 1 hour, 5 minutes.

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