THEATER: Fascism, Fury, Fear and Farce

Eugene Ionesco's absurdist comedies transmuted a century of dictatorship and evil into profound nonsense and guffaws

WHEN ASKED TO MUSE ON THE avant-garde of the generation before his own, the man who became perhaps the most influential avant-garde dramatist of the 20th century savored the historical irony. "They all wanted to destroy culture," he said, "and now they're part of our heritage." The same thing happened to the father of "theater of the absurd" (he preferred the label theater of derision, saying, "It's not a certain society that seems ridiculous to me, it's mankind"). In 1950, Eugene Ionesco's The Bald Soprano opened in Paris to catcalls, and a performance of his The Lesson ended with the lead...

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