The lights go down and the three piece orchestra starts in on a ridiculous romp of a tune, complete with slide whistles, bells and many of the classic sound effects one associates with slapstick and vaudeville. This overture sets the perfect mood for Ionescopade, a vaudeville variety-type show, derived from the work of Eugene Ionesco now playing at the Odyssey Theatre. It opens with a silent clown type narrator (Alan Abelew), who portrays the writer of the show. Abelew slinks throughout the show, smiling, and acting as a sidekick to many of the performers. Though at times his little acts are cute, the part is not really necessary and does not add anything to the show. The rest of the cast members, however jump brilliantly in and out of different characters as the scenes are always changing between vaudeville-esque song and dance numbers, to thought provoking sketches, to heart-rendering songs.
This type of show would fall completely flat if it was not supplied with an absolutely superb cast, but luckily this production is. Though everyone has their strong points, Tom Lowe steals the show, with his velvety voice, stellar dance moves and ability to jump in and out of each scene while not missing a beat. Lowe is often paired with the vibrant Cristina Gerla, who dances and sings her way into your heart, as her big eyes and contagious smile lights up the stage. A personal favorite part of the show, is brought by Andrew Ableson, when he sings the lonely smoky bar tune, “Madeline”. His voice is sublime, and in a song that barely gives room for breathing, he executes it flawlessly.
Though there are many different elements and subjects of the show, the underlying theme is based on war and the idiocy of leadership. Ionesco was a writer in post World War II France and he was one of the prominent figures for the Theatre of the Absurd. So many of his pieces are down right silly, yet some of them really challenge us to think and take a look at the world around us. Though written decades ago, the themes are still relevant today and many of the subjects we can all easily relate to.
Ionescopade was originally conceived by Robert Allan Ackerman, with music and lyrics by Mildred Kayden. This production has been slightly re-structured from previous versions by the director/choreographer, William Castellino, and he has done a stellar job. Quick paced, eye catching and strongly cast, this fun vaudevillian romp is sure to make audiences, laugh, ponder and applaud with sure delight.
Ionescopade runs Fridays – Sundays with select Wednesday and Thursday performances through August 11th.