Generic Theatre production combines humor and absurdity

Generic Theatre returns to the stage Thursday with its production of Edward Albee’s The American Dream.

During the 1960s, The Theater of the Absurd, with roots in European theater, became popular in the United States, attracting writers such as Albee. Absurdist theater tinkers with the standard logical formula for drama. It concentrates on the absurdity of life. The shows from this genre do not attempt to explain the absurd – they merely present it.

The American Dream epitomizes pieces from The Theater of the Absurd. Generic Theatre’s production begins with a monologue by Mrs. Sorken (Devon Butler). A theater lover, Mrs. Sorken sets out to explain theater. She humorously contorts the origins of the words. Her aimless warble about the theater results in ridiculous conclusions such as theater is the “metaphorical Dramamine to cure the nausea of life.” She ends her monologue by inviting the audience to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance because all things that occur in Washington, D.C. begin with the pledge – a bit of absurdity on which to start things off.

In the opening scene, Mommy (Stacey Campbell) and Daddy (Michael Moran), who actually are husband and wife but refer to each other by the parental names, are waiting for someone to arrive at their apartment. In the meantime, they complain about how difficult it is to get satisfaction. Mommy rambles on about a hat she bought that she thought was beige but was actually wheat so she marched back in the store and demanded a beige hat and she got it. So, she got satisfaction. Daddy, on the other hand, has called for weeks about getting the broken “johnnie” repaired but can’t get any satisfaction.

The broken johnnie is a point of concern, not for Mommy or Daddy, but for Grandma (Patricia Jenson). Grandma embodies the idiosyncrasies of an entire floor of senior citizens in a nursing home. Her bizarre quirks, such as wrapping empty boxes, create the show’s most eccentric and intriguing character.

Finally, Mrs. Baker (Amy Mulry) arrives. She’s late, as Mommy and Daddy immediately point out. The question, however, is not what delayed her but why is she there. Even Mrs. Baker does not know the reason for the visit. Then, to add to the confusion of the scene, a young man (Randy Lizardo) visits the apartment looking for work. Grandma, charmed by his attractiveness, attempts to think of some work that needs to be done in the apartment.

The play’s absurdity creates confusion, presenting a plot that seems to be headed nowhere with no firm foundation from which to grow. Yet, that is the purpose of the show – to explore absurdity, irrationality, confusion.

Each performer in the cast enhances the unique qualities of his or her character, resulting in an interesting ensemble. Jenson stands out as the Grandmother. Her quivering voice and unsteady finger, which she is constantly pointing, transform her from a college student to an elderly woman. She also provides the most comical moments in the show.

The American Dream, directed by Jeff Riggs, showcases the talent of the performers. Although the story line can be perplexing, the humorous aspects of the show and the intricate characters make it worthwhile.

The American Dream will be performed in Downstage Lisner Thursday through Sunday at 8 p.m. Tickets cost $3 for students and $5 for the general public.

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