The Bald Soprano
Jack Oakes Theater
Through June 2

Communication falls by the wayside in this extremely low-budget, all-female production of Ionesco's famous, one-act play. The script, which is surreal enough on a textual level, is made more so by the time slot for this show (11:30 pm) and the in-your-face set, which merges with the seats to make a lucid half-set/half-audience monster. Alarm clocks ring periodically throughout, often times from beneath an unsuspecting viewer's chair, stopping the action onstage and eliciting an awkward stare from whatever actress happened to have just been talking until the alarm gets turned off.

The room in which the action takes place--a nuclear, cardboard cut-out living and dining room area--is supposed to take place on the ground floor with a window facing the outside world. But cheap production values result in a blend of poor lighting, old furniture, and overall dankness that makes you feel like you're intruding in someone's basement. There's even a musty old staircase that ascends off to the left. The result is a feeling of prepared performance, but without any planning, if that makes any sense.

You could be watching a group of girls play make-believe in the play room, or you could be watching a play by one of the great playwrights of the 20th century. The strange interactions that take place between the two couples that inhabit the room feel like they must happen all the time, which is a good thing, because Ionesco would surely argue that the struggle with language that his characters endure is a struggle that DOES happen all the time.

The chemistry between the four women feels friendly and playful, but not marital. The women playing the husbands of each pair (Jessica Repa and Timeca Briggs) make no effort to play like men, and yet their relationships with their respective spouses (Rebecca Humphreys and Faith Helma) doesn't have homoerotic undertones either. The result is a casting choice that really has no obvious point, and really doesn't add any humor value either. It's just... nothing. You don't feel like these women are married, or that they're not married. They just seem to exist in this space, reciting Ionesco's strange, fragmented dialogue that purposefully adds up to nothing meaningful in order to prevent characters from ever connecting in any tangible way.

It's a fascinatingly frustrating script, but without any consistent vision aside from a general sense of weirdness to make it accessible, it feels inconsequential. You might glean something more than, say, Saturday Night Live, that other staple of the 11:30ish entertainment slot, but you'll also have to pay 10 bucks more to glean it.