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Absurd Person Singular

We saw a marvelous show last week, on the night before Thanksgiving - that's why I haven't got to it sooner. It was Alan Ayckbourn's umpteenth play, Absurd Person Singluar. This was the sixth or seventh Ayckbourn that we've seen; it was by far the best. And for once, I have to begin by praising the director, John Tillinger.

Alan Ayckbourn is a master farceur. He knows more about doorways that the god Janus. He moves his characters - and their stories - with the precision of a clockmaker. He has a fantastic natural sense of humor. The problem comes in when he tries to be serious, to make a point. He does make a point in Absurd Person Singular: it is the point of the title. We're all absurd when all we think about is ourselves, as the six people in this play do. (The humor of "Absurd" is that, while it rhymes with "third," it refers to the first.) This is not a show that even an Olivier could muddle through without strong direction; the roles require exact synchronization. Mr Tillinger has directed lots of plays at MTC, including several by Mr Ayckbourn, but never has his choreography worked to such magnificent extent - a fact that I attribute to Mr Ayckbourn's staying out of the way. John Lee Beatty's amusing sets, Jane Greenwood's spot-on outfits, and Brian MacDevitt's superb lighting showed off the play's full comic potential.

The construction of Absurd Person Singular is elegance itself...

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