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Summer Madness

There's something about the summer that allows us to let go of our daily lives and slip into spaces that change our perception of the world. Couple this with two genuinely funny and savagely biting one-acts from a couple of accomplished absurdist playwrights and you have the prescription for a delightful evening of Summer Madness at Germinal Stage Denver.

Ed Baierlein and Betsy Grisard as Mr. and Mrs. Todd in Madly in Love
Ed Baierlein and Betsy Grisard
as Mr. and Mrs. Todd
in "Madly in Love"
Director Ed Baierlein serves up equal portions of novelist and playwright Paul Ableman's 1968 Royal Shakespeare Company's commission, Madly in Love, and Eugene Ionesco's 1950 classic, The Bald Soprano, underscoring the continued relevancy and power of the Theatre of the Absurd.

If Moliere were alive today, he would no doubt get a laugh out of Madly in Love, as it takes on modern psychiatry with the same vengeance he so mercilessly applied to the doctors, lawyers, and clergy of his day.

Terry Burnsed as Macfee and Elizabeth Parks as Mary
Terry Burnsed as Macfee
and Elizabeth Parks as Mary
in "Madly in Love"
Macfee (Terry Burnsed) pretends to be licensed like his boss, Macnair (Leroy Leonard), in order to woo Mary Todd (Elizabeth Parks), who has an "obedience compulsion," while right under her parent's—Mr. Todd (Baierlein) and Mrs. Todd (Betsy Grisard)—noses.

Warning: Electro-shock therapy is involved and the playwright's comments on love are hilarious.

Burnsed is a man possessed as Macfee pursues Mary, a wonderfully droll Parks. Leonard's Macnair is the perfect foil, an upright but ultimately pliable licensed shrink.

Much like a Victor Borge percussively punctuated routine, Baierlein has the theatrically enviable task—which he executes to perfection—of creating a nervous tic of such proportions that Macnair, through his impersonator, Macfee, must be called in to calm things down. Grisard is archetypically relentless, as Mrs. Todd turns eagle-eyed watchdog over her defenseless daughter, Mary, and the devious Macfee.

Lori Hansen and Leroy Leonard as Mrs. and Mr. Smith in The Bald Soprano
Lori Hansen and Leroy Leonard
as Mrs. and Mr. Smith
in "The Bald Soprano"
After intermission, in Ionesco's The Bald Soprano, the medical profession is again the target of some sharp barbs, while Mrs. Smith (Lori Hansen) and Mr. Smith (Leroy Leonard) await their guests, Mr. Martin (Terry Burnsed) and Mrs. Martin (Elizabeth Parks).

Ionesco made his mark with this play. It's filled with memorable scenes that shed light on personal identity, memory, coincidence, appearances, and other slippery slopes, with relativistic abandon.

Hanson's exaggerated pink house bonnet and red nose take the cake among the many endearingly goofy Sally Diamond costumes peppered throughout the two plays. Her opening monologue, periodically punctuated and commented upon by Leonard's fez-bedecked former navy swab, sets the tone for an incredibly rhythmic series of deconstructive dialogues.

Terry Burnsed and Elizabeth Parks as Mr. and Mrs. Martin in The Bald Soprano
Terry Burnsed and Elizabeth Parks
as Mr. and Mrs. Martin
in "The Bald Soprano"
Burnsed's slick tuxedo takes second fiddle to his possessed penetrating eyes, as he and the fetching, elegant gowned and jeweled Parks retrace the coincidences of their seeming marriage, before we are rudely surprised by the cheery Maid (Grisard), who informs us that the last detail of their conversation indicates they are not who they think they are. Finally, the outspoken Fire Chief (a commanding, confident Mark Branche) arrives to stoke the blaze.

Director Baierlein's inventive staging lays bare these avant-garde works in a rare and insightful display that entertains and provokes. You won't see these gems done better!

Germinal Stage Denver's Summer Madness runs through August 29th. 303-455-7108.

Bob Bows

 

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