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Theatre Review: The New Tenant and The Ugly One



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(Sacramento, CA)
Monday, July 09, 2012

Eugene Ionesco wrote his short play "The New Tenant" back in 1958, a decade before Monty Python became a pop culture phenomenon.  Looking at this Ionesco play now, you can't help but think that it might have inspired the young Pythons. The play begins with actor Greg Alexander, entering an empty apartment he's just rented. He's dressed to the nines in a crisp, formal white suit and hat. And he has an odd gleam in his eyes.

[Two burly moving men start bringing in stuff. Tables. Chairs. Ceramics. Paintings. Boxes. Soon the room is getting . . . cluttered.]

Moving Man: "Where shall I put these?"
Tenant: "There, and there, of course. Then they will match the two on the other side.
 
Moving Man: "Oh of course. I should have thought… Do you still have room for the rest?"
 
He gets moved in, all right. By the time the last box arrives, Alexander has disappeared behind a wall of stuff.

The other play is "The Ugly One," about a man whose face is so awful that no one, including his wife, can look him in the eye directly.

Husband: "You love me, although I'm hideously ugly."

Wife: (breathlessly) "Yes."
 
Husband: "That sounds like a compromise."
 
Wife: "Well, it doesn't feel like one. I'd say my love is uncompromising."
 
Husband: "I don't think you're ugly. I think you're beautiful."
 
Wife: (factually) "Yes, darling, I am."
 
But then the man has facial surgery - a total makeover. And he becomes so incredibly handsome that women swoon. He attracts more bedmates than a hedonistic rock star. But very soon, the downsides of this new lifestyle become readily apparent.
 
It's a bit unusual to find this kind of absurdist humor in a commercial theater like the B Street, but don't let that bother you. And don't waste time looking for hidden meanings. My advice is to sit back, and laugh at the kooky performances - all four actors do quite well, and the odd sound effects and physical antics enhance the disjointed verbal humor. A slice of lunacy can hit the spot during a long Sacramento summer.
 
The B Street Theatre's double bill of absurdist one-act plays continues through August 5th.
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