Love on the banks of the Mystic
CHELSEA - Can a young man limited to speaking one word a day express his feelings to his beloved? What happens when a man rejects a bride because she has only two noses? And just what is going on with that wedding photographer’s camera on the Eiffel Tower?
A trio of amusing absurdist one-act plays is showing at the Apollinaire Theater’s seventh annual summer offering of free bilingual theater in Chelsea’s Mary O’Malley Park. With the Tobin Bridge and the Mystic River providing an evocative backdrop, simple family dynamics unfold in outrageous ways in Jean Anouilh’s “Humulus the Mute,’’ Eugene Ionesco’s “Jack, or the Submission,’’ and Jean Cocteau’s “The Wedding on the Eiffel Tower.’’ But while the choice of these rarely performed comedies is fascinating, the characters are a little beyond the abilities of the Apollinaire performers, who rely more on mugging to communicate.
Director Danielle Fauteux Jacques leans on the beauty of the natural setting to anchor the one acts, and organizes the trio in such a way that the audience is introduced to the power that words can have when they are limited; the way they become nonsensical when overused, and finally, when controlled by machines, how words can make people do ridiculous and absurd things.
In the first play, “Humulus the Mute,’’ Humulus (an innocent-looking Andres Rey Solorzano), is only able to speak one word each day. When he falls in love, he decides to save up his words for one month so that he can use them to declare his affection for his bicycle-riding love, Helene (Veronica Barron), with comic results.
For the second play, “Jack, or the Submission,’’ the audience moves down to the pier for a more traditional living room setting in Ionesco’s madcap tale of a young man (Vladimir Noel) whose family outlines the ways in which he’s disappointed them in a jumble of non sequiturs and contradictory statements. At one point, his mother, says, “I’m completely half desperate,’’ and the swirl of words escalates from there. The family sets him up with a bride named Roberta (Scarlett Redmond), but Jack rejects her because she has only two noses. When his in-laws present him with their “second only daughter,’’ who has three noses (also Roberta), Jack resists until Roberta woos him with word games that reduce everything to the word “cat.’’ In a classic Ionesco moment, the entire family is transformed into a collection of mewing and crying cats, as words are replaced by the emotional whining of animals.
The audience moves back up the hill for “The Wedding at the Eiffel Tower,’’ Cocteau’s clever dramatization of a situation in which a camera and two phonographs control a family ritual of a wedding photo. Two phonographs (Stephen Turner and Noel) recite all the dialogue downstage, while the wedding party mimes the words behind them, suggesting that people are powerless in the face of machinery. Since this is Cocteau, the “birdie’’ in the camera comes to life and each photograph is an opportunity to step into another fantasy world. Out of the camera jumps an ostrich (Danielle Muehlen) pursued by a hunter (Mauro Canepa), a dancing Bathing Beauty (Muehlen); a naughty child (Lorna Nogueira); and a hungry lion (Muehlen) before all is righted again and the wedding party toasts their good fortune.
The absurdity of the playwrights’ language and situations seems oddly unsuited to the outdoor production. But Fauteux Jacques’s playful approach makes the experience. As the young preteen next to me said, “That was weird, but kind of fun.’’