Cutting Ball has won a San Francisco Bay Guardian Goldie Award, a sort of acronym for “Guardian Outstanding Local Discovery.” A bit like “emerging playwright,” in that the company is 10-years-old and hence hardly a “discovery,” but still exciting. Especially since it comes on the heels of the company’s new residency at Exit on Taylor, finally giving them a permanent-ish home.
Also nice that the article notes something all us fans of Cutting Ball already know:
Cutting Ball productions are nothing if not strikingly designed. For years, the company has had a talented core of collaborators that includes designers Heather Basarab (lights), Cliff Caruthers (sound and electronic music), and Michael Locher (sets). Together in close collaboration with the astute, Yale-trained Rob Melrose, they regularly produce some of the best designs to be found on any Bay Area stage, large or small.
Their latest production is Eugène Ionesco’s Victims of Duty, which I got to see on opening night but forgot to mention because I was obsessively watching Rachel Maddow and Chris Matthews over and over again. It’s a rarely-produced Ionesco play, one I read a long time ago and didn’t really get until I saw this production.
When I’m trying to explain absurdism to non-theatre friends, I tend to reduce it down to a one-sentence formula: “since <blank> is so absurd, the only way to capture its truth in a story is to have the whole story fall apart.” What I never thought about is that this absurdly reductionist sentence presumes the playwright is trying to capture the essence of <something>, be it politics, fascism, war, life.
This play doesn’t really do that. It’s not really making a grand statement about war, or life. Instead, it seems to be examining theatre itself, and implicitly rejecting naturalism in favor of a more dreamlike way of presenting a story.
Hmm. Sounds like I’m writing a thesis or something. Perhaps I should just say the play is funny, well-acted, and full of all the rapid shifts from drama to thriller to comedy that I like to see onstage. And the sound and lighting and set design are all superb. If you like absurdism and oddness onstage, check it out.
Victims of Duty by Eugène Ionesco at Cutting Ball Theater at Exit on Taylor, 277 Taylor St., San Francisco, through Nov 23. Tickets at cuttingball.com.