LOS ANGELES: Odyssey Theatre Ensemble returns to absurdity this summer, offering Ionescopade: A Musical Vaudeville through Aug. 11, after having presented the show in 1981.
The series of sketches by (or inspired by) Romanian playwright Eugène Ionesco, conceived by Robert Allan Ackerman with songs by Mildred Kayden, first appeared Off-Off Broadway and then at Off Broadway’s Cherry Lane Theatre in 1973 and 1974. Bill Castellino, who directed and choreographed both Odyssey productions, brought the piece further attention through stagings for D.C.’s National Museum of Natural History (1995) and New York City’s York Theatre Company (2012).
Each time Castellino has reorganized, added, and removed songs and scenes—which include Ionesco one-acts, excerpts from his longer plays and his poetry, even a number based on a painting by the dramatist’s contemporary Pinchas Shaar.
Castellino observes that Ionescopade resonates differently today, but continues to connect with audiences: “Ionesco was writing in the shadow of World War II, the atom bomb, the Holocaust, the Nazi occupation of Paris. Since our own 9/11, we stand in a shadow that is similar yet different.” And although the material “is thoughtful, prescient, and cerebral,” he notes, “what’s critically important is to underscore the humor. It’s smart theatre and a silly, hilarious romp. Ionesco says that humor is the key to survival.
“Another of the strengths of Ionescopade is that it’s a sampler,” Castellino adds. “There’s a kind of access to the range of his work that you wouldn’t get from watching a full-length play like The Chairs. It’s perfect for this fabulously bizarre mind.”