Alexis Slocum & Timothy Hull in The Lesson.
By Eugene Ionesco
Translated and directed by Nancy C. Jones
Review by Cristina Martin
Entire contents are copyright © 2014 Cristina Martin. All rights reserved.
If Blizzard of ’92 (seen by this reviewer the same evening) is a light wind on an overcast day, The Lesson is a cyclone. Théâtre Farouche presents an extraordinary take on Eugene Ionesco’s absurdist drame comique. As a French major who spent many an hour ruminating over twentieth century literature, I had the good fortune some years back of seeing the original La Leçon at Paris’ Théâtre de la Huchette, where it has been playing since 1957. It was unforgettable; but I daresay this production of Director Nancy Jones’ faithful English translation is no less impressive.
The play is equal parts hilarity and horror. A fresh-faced student (Alexis Slocum) arrives at the home of a distinguished professor (Timothy Hull) for a tutoring session. What ensues follows an inexorable trajectory during which both of the above are transformed. Ms. Slocum and Mr. Hull play their roles with phenomenal talent and energy: Ms. Slocum’s bright-eyed, literally in-your-face eagerness is actually menacing at the start and fades by degrees, while Mr. Hull’s evolution from milquetoast to martinet is a wonder to behold.
The remaining character, that of the professor’s maid (Karyn Czar), is expanded brilliantly from the original script. With more stage time and some wonderful touches (at various points, the maid shares popcorn and hands out tissues to the audience), her relationship to the professor is given substance. Ms. Czar portrays her with a certain poised, enigmatic quality that makes us sit up and take notice each time she enters.
Also playing in the AltSpace at Walden, the production makes excellent use of the stage. A piece featuring one teacher and one student around a small table has the potential to be quite stagnant; fear not, for the show is anything but. Nonsense and non-sequiturs abound, but underneath lie grim and terrifying implications, indictments of age-old institutions and of modern life itself.
Félicitations to the cast and production team of The Lesson. Quelle représentation merveilleuse — Ionesco en serait fier. Ionesco would be proud.
Friday, November 14 – 9 pm
Sunday, November 16 – 5:30 pm
Friday, November 21 – 9:30 pm
Part of the Slant Culture Theatre Festival
1123 Payne Street
Louisville, KY 40204
A lover of the arts in every form, Cristina Martin has a background in theatre, dance, and classical music. A native of Chicago, she currently lives in Louisville with her husband, three active young boys, two rambunctious dogs and a cat as old as the hills.