Frenzy for Two or More

By Eugene Ionesco
Translation by Donald Watson
Directed by Jeffrey Horne
Spring Theatreworks and 2001 Ionesco Festival (206-1515)
Present Company Theatorium
Non-union production (closed)
Review by John Chatterton

Frenzy for Two or More could be construed as an allegory in which what starts out as a stupid argument between a couple (Alison Saltz and Jordan Hoch) about whether a snail is different from a tortoise ends up as war. Whatever approach one takes to interpreting it, if any, it is an entertaining one-act tour de force, especially as produced by Spring Theatreworks.

The initial couple morph into another couple (Erin Treadway and Michael Weitz) and then another (Doug Simpson and Susan Biesinger), who escalate the argument to new levels. The snail (or tortoise) being debated became a prop shoe became a theatrical hand grenade; a rat was a sausage, a can of Ajax a beer, and a doll became Venus became the Statue of Liberty. Finally a string of beheaded Barbie dolls stretched across the stage. As the war intensified, outside hands sliced through the wax-paper sheets that comprised the scenery and finally tossed an increasing pile of miscellaneous junk onto all the couples onstage. When an actor mimed slapping another, two arms came through the walls and clapped together. Explosions sounded like balloons popping.

So much for plot. (For theme, read a critical history.) Spring presented the play as a colorful and frenetic theatre work, akin to the circus. Costumes tended to pajamas and bathrobes (it was ostensibly staged in a bedroom). The pacing was brisk and confident throughout. The only drawback of performance was that the first couple (Saltz and Hoch) were limited in their childlike bickering; the other couples offered more variety.

The production was prefaced by an Ionesco radio play, produced by the Untitled Theatre Company #61 (presenters of the festival). It was amusing, if forgettably produced, and - like Frenzy - underscored the festival's commitment to producing all the works of Ionesco, obscure and otherwise. While Ionesco has fallen out of favor, these productions show that he still has something to tell us, in addition to his role as a founding father of contemporary theatre. All involved are to be commended, and any theatre lover should consider catching some of the works on display. (See also Victims of Duty, Man with Bags, and A Hell of a Mess.)

 Box Score:

Writing: 2
Directing: 2
Acting: 1
Sets: 2
Costumes: 2
Lighting/Sound: 1

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Copyright 2001 John Chatterton