The theatre of the absurd
In viewing the plays that comprise this movement, we must forsake the theater of coherently developed situations, we must forsake characterizations that are rooted in the logic of motivation and reaction, we must sometimes forget settings that bear an intrinsic, realistic, or obvious relationship to the drama as a whole, we must forget the use of language as a tool of logical communication, and we must forget cause-and-effect relationships found in traditional dramas.
This revulsion derives partially from the fact that Genet's dramatic interest, so different from Beckett's and Ionesco's, is in the psychological exploration of man's predilection to being trapped in his own egocentric world, rather than facing the realities of existence.
Do you detect the difference? Berenger is left alone, totally isolated with his individualism.
The theatre of the absurd
Dreams are featured in many theatrical pieces, but it had to wait for Strindberg to produce the masterly transcriptions of dreams and obsessions that have become a direct source of the Absurd Theatre. Essentially, therefore, the Theater of the Absurd is not a positive drama. That is, one action carries no more significance than does its opposite action. It is the hidden, implied meaning of words that assume primary importance in absurd theatre, over an above what is being actually said. All that the East-European absurdist plays were trying to do was to remove minor blemishes on the face of the Marxist model - and that was easily done. In Maid to Marry, communication is so bad that the maid, when she appears on the stage, turns out to be a rather homely man. The tremendous impact of these productions in Eastern Europe can be perhaps compared with the impact of Waiting for Godot on the inmates of a Californian penitentiary, when it was staged there in
Man, for Genet, is trapped by his own fantastic illusions; man's absurdity results partially from the fact that he prefers his own disjointed images to those of reality.
Some Dadaist plays were written, but these were mostly nonsense poems in dialogue form, the aim of which was primarily to 'shock the bourgeois audience'.
In a subsequent edition of his book, Esslin promoted Pinter to the first tier of absurdist playwrights.
In the first decade after the communist take-over of power, it would have been impossible for anyone to write anything even distantly based on his experiences of life after the take-over without endangering his personal safety.
The rise of the Theatre of the Absurd in the East is connected with the period of relative relaxation of the East European regimes after Stalin's death. In contrast to Beckett, Eugene Ionesco's characters are seen in terms of singularity. For example, the man's tying his shoe in The Bald Soprano — a common occurrence — is magnified into a momentous act, while the appearance of rhinoceroses in the middle of a calm afternoon seems to be not at all consequential and evokes only the most trite and insignificant remarks.
This concern with communication is finally carried to its illogical extreme in two works: in Genet's The Blacks, one character says, "We shall even have the decency — a decency learned from you — to make communication impossible.
Theatre of the absurd conventions
Every play in the Theater of the Absurd movement mirrors the chaos and basic disorientation of modern man. In The Chairs, the old people, needing to express their thoughts, address themselves to a mass of empty chairs which, as the play progresses, crowd all else off the stage. Akin to the violence in Albee's Zoo Story, the professor in The Lesson must kill his student partly because she doesn't understand his communication. A reason for dying? The Absurd Theatre sought to express the individual's longing for a single myth of general validity. Berenger is left alone, totally isolated with his individualism. These are some of the reasons which prompt the critic to classify them under the heading "Theater of the Absurd" — a title which comes not from a dictionary definition of the word "absurd," but rather from Martin Esslin's book The Theatre of the Absurd, in which he maintains that these dramatists write from a "sense of metaphysical anguish at the absurdity of the human condition. Czechoslovakia was thrown into a harsh, neo-Stalinist mould, entering the time capsule of stagnating immobility, in which it has remained ever since. The tremendous impact of these productions in Eastern Europe can be perhaps compared with the impact of Waiting for Godot on the inmates of a Californian penitentiary, when it was staged there in There is no dramatic conflict in the absurd plays.
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