By Linda Smith
As much as I hate to unabashedly rave over a production, “The Bald Soprano” is a play that the University of Dallas has needed for some time and that is wonderfully executed all around.
The set is simple. 1950s Britain provides us with a wallpapered wall (with an interesting twist), four cream-colored English armchairs and a few black tray tables, which quickly go away. What we are left with are the props, which include glasses and plates belonging to the main characters, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, a box filled with Mrs. Smith’s sewing tools and a newspaper named “An English Newspaper,” which Mr. Smith reads. The lights change when a character goes into a short reflection or when the set changes, accompanied by a catchy ‘50s house party tune.
The actors really steal the show. The Smiths are particularly prominent, especially as the first couple on the stage. Mrs. Smith, played by sophomore Zeina Masri, starts off with a long monologue of mostly nonsense. Mr. Smith, played by senior Brian Ahern, does nothing but click his tongue until he seamlessly fits himself into the conversation. Mr. and Mrs. Martin, played by freshman Noah Kersting and junior Maria Hotovy, respectively, enter during a period of the Smiths’ absence, amusingly discuss the possibility that they must have met before and finally realize that they are actually husband and wife. While the scene dragged at times, especially because it uses much of the same wording repeatedly, their conclusions were amusing and Hotovy and Kersting brought a certain appealing innocence to their parts.
Perhaps the best arbitrary additions to the show are four characters: Mary, the Smiths’ maid, played by senior Deborah Corpening; the fire chief, played by junior James McGregor; the clock; and the audience. Mary lets the audience in on the truth about the Martins, while presenting herself as a young girl wanting to put herself into her place in society and forcefully doing so. At one point, much to the chagrin of the Smiths, she begins reciting poems in the company of the rest of the characters, as if she were of the same status. The fire chief begins a cycle of storytelling, and also utters the line from which the title of the play is derived. I include the clock and audience as characters because they both play crucial roles. The audience provides an interesting, varied context to the play. The circular layout of the Margaret Jonsson Theater contributes to this. Audience members can see one another in addition to the action onstage, so they can observe each other’s reaction. Some look uncomfortable at times, some are utterly perplexed and some fall out of their seats with laughter. Sitting in different sections of the theater also provides different opportunities for laughter, as you notice different things in the play from each section. Perhaps the most important character is a clock in the background that rings at random, and for a random number of times. The play begins with 17 chimes from the ominous machine, then the chimes range in number from two to 29. I feel as though the clock chimes to remind us of how much time has passed, both in the world of the play and in our own lives, and makes us ask ourselves what we have done with that time. As these characters try to have significant conversations with sentences such as, “We have eaten well this evening. That’s because we live in the suburbs of London and because our name is Smith,” they continue to fail and the time chimes on.
This is a play with no meaning, no concrete plot and no set ending. The drama department’s production of “The Bald Soprano” ends with a shocking twist, and the ushers literally make the audience leave. Initially, I believed this was uncouth, but I realized why. If they do not kick the audience out, the play must literally go on indefinitely. The crew is trying to usher the audience into the real world, to stop letting the clock chime arbitrarily on, so that we may attempt the real communication that the characters cannot accomplish.