Whoops, There Goes Reality: Eugène Ionesco’s Classic Absurdist Anti-Play Masterpiece The Bald Soprano

The Bald Soprano

@ The Bethany Mission Gallery

February 6 – 16 during Philadelphia Theatre Week


The Idiopathic Ridiculopathy Consortium, Philadelphia’s critically acclaimed theater company known for intelligent and accessible interpretations of classic absurdist works, will present Ionesco’s anti-play tackling communication gone awry as part of Philadelphia Theatre Week 2020.  The Bald Soprano will run for eight shows only, opening Thursday, February 6 @ 7:30 pm and running through Sunday, February 16 @ 2:30 pm, Thursday through Saturday at 7:30 pm, Sunday matinees at 2:30 pm.  Tickets for all performances @ BaldSoprano@bpt.me, 215.285.0472 or todaytix.com.


Since the IRC’s inception in 2006, they have presented Ionesco audience favorites Rhinoceros, Exit the King and The Chairs (2009 and 2016), and The Bald Soprano in 2017.   The 2020 production of The Bald Soprano will feature Sonja Robson and John Zak as The Martins,  Tomas Dura as Mary the Maid,  Carlos Forbes as The Fireman, and Bob Schmidt and Tina Brock as The Smiths.  Tina Brock directs.  The 2020 production is reimagined for a vastly different world than the 2017 offering, using 1960’s London pop culture as the inspiration with the non-action unfolding amid the collection of outsider art at The Bethany Mission Gallery.


The Bald Soprano was Ionesco’s first play, written in 1950.  He conceived the play while attempting to learn English from a primer.  He writes of this experience: “A strange phenomenon took place — the text began imperceptibly to change before my eyes… the clichés and truisms of the conversation primer which once made sense gave way to pseudo-clichés and pseudotruisms; these disintegrated into wild caricature and parody, and in the end language disintegrated into disjointed fragments of words.”


More than half a century later, the seminal works that earned Ionesco a reputation as the “Inventor of the Metaphysical Farce” and “Shakespeare of the Absurd” are enjoying a well-deserved renaissance in New York theaters and around the world.  Indeed, Ionesco’s parable warning of the dangers of conformity has lost none of its relevance in a modern world.   Ionesco believed he was writing a tragedy with The Bald Soprano, though audiences responded otherwise.  The play has been in continuous performance since 1957 at the Théâtre de la Huchette in Paris and holds the world record for the show that has played non-stop in the same theatre.  The nearly 18, 000 performances of The Bald Soprano have been seen by over 2 million spectators.


Eugène Ionesco (1909 -1994) was a Romanian playwright who spent much of his childhood in Paris.  In 1936, his writer and friend Denis de Rougemont who was in Nuremberg, described the “delirium which electrified him” as he was lured into a Nazi rally attended by Hitler.  His conclusion: “I am alone and they are all together.”  Ionesco credits de Rougemont’s compelling journal entries as the inspiration for his short story Rhinoceros, which he later adapted into a three act play.  The diary sparked potent memories for Ionesco, who 20 years earlier endured the fascist Iron Guard, an event that ended in severed ties with his father due to irreconcilable political differences.  Ionesco writes: “I thought that it was strange to assume that it was abnormal for anyone to be forever asking questions about the nature of the universe, about what the human condition really was, my condition, what I was doing here, if there was really something to do.  It seemed to me on the contrary that it was abnormal for people not to think about it, for them to allow themselves to live, as it were, unconsciously.”


2020 marks The Idiopathic Ridiculopathy Consortium’s 15th season presenting challenging and rarely-produced absurdist gems and works from adjacent genres, perceived through an IRC lens.  In 2019, The IRC season included the critically-acclaimed productions of Christopher Durang’s Betty’s Summer Vacation and William Inge’s Come Back, Little Sheba.


The Bald Soprano will operate under a contract with Actors’ Equity Association.  The IRC is a 501C3 non-profit organization, and a member of The Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance and a participant in the Barrymore Awards, a program of Theatre Philadelphia.


The IRC’s 2020 season is made possible, in part, by generous support from Wyncote Foundation; The Bayard Walker, Jr. Fund of the Philadelphia Foundation; The Philadelphia Cultural Fund; The Pennsylvania Partners in the Arts program of the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, funded by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the National Endowment for the Arts, administered regionally by the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance and The Charlotte Cushman Foundation, in Memory of Donna R. Thomas, former president of the Charlotte Cushman Foundation.


IRC Season 2020, #15 marks the second year of the IRC’s expansion of the company’s season to three mainstage shows, two of three presented in the historic Bethany Mission Gallery, 1527 Brandywine Street in the city’s Spring Garden Neighborhood.

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