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Thursday, Feb. 13, 2014

Setting 'The Chairs' for Imaginary Guests

Ionesco’s absurdist farce at Alchemist Theatre

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An old man and old woman live in lonely isolation on an island. They have invited “imaginary guests” to their ramshackle home and frantically put out more and more chairs as the “guests” arrive. They are “all” awaiting the arrival of the great Orator who will reveal the old man’s message, which will transform the world.

This is the setting for The Chairs, Eugène Ionesco’s bleak absurdist farce, which opened last weekend at the Alchemist Theatre under the spot-on direction of Leda Hoffmann. In the 75 ensuing minutes we are mesmerized by the acting as well as the demands placed on us as an audience.

Is this the descent into madness of two people in the twilight of their lives? A way to pass the time night after night in a post-Holocaust world? What is truth and what is fiction? We only ever get cryptic bits and pieces of their 75 years of married life. Yet the performances by Tim Linn as the Old Man and Kelly Doherty as Old Woman astonish and captivate throughout. Linn is blindly passionate in his transcendent message, supported, literally, by his doting, subservient wife. Doherty is at turns silly and sexual, insecure and decisive.

The pair’s timing is impeccable as they greet their imaginary guests, a difficult feat to accomplish in a world topsy-turvy with dark contradictions awaiting a message that never comes in the way we expect it. “Truth is the truth wherever you find it,” says the Old Man early on. And in The Chairs, the search for truth is more about the journey than what we find at journey’s end.

The Chairs runs through Feb. 22, at The Alchemist Theatre, 2569 S. Kinnickinnic Ave. For more tickets call 414-426-4169 or visit thealchemisttheatre.com.

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