Albee, absurdism and the American Dream

     

“Going Further …” a set of repertory one-acts by the absurdist playwright Edward Albee, runs Jan. 17-20 as Cal State San Bernardino opens its annual Black Box series.

Staged by the CSUSB theatre arts department, the production looks at the dark reality of the American social paradigm through the eyes of Albee, famous for penning “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” and “The Goat, Or Who is Sylvia?”

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The production is directed by Tom Finnegan. To highlight the abstract nature of the playwright, Finnegan has chosen three of Albee’s lesser-performed one-act plays, each of which explores a crippled society.

“The American Dream” and “The Sandbox” bookend the production, with the recurring characters of Mommy and Daddy, who are trying to bring balance to their lives, cope with an aging Grandma, lament the loss of a child, and entertain oft-uninvited house guests.

Finnegan treats these two plays as if they were one, and double-casts the roles to create a unique story and set of challenges for audiences and actors alike. “Box,” the middle piece of the production and perhaps the most absurd of Albee’s works, has no actors at all.

Rather, this one-act uses lighting and voice-over effects to tell its tale. “It has such a lyric rhythm to it. I’m sure [even with no actors] it will fascinate the audience,” said Finnegan, who has been an Albee advocate, professional actor and playwright for nearly 40 years.

“It has always been in my mind to try and link these three plays together,” said Finnegan. “They’re diverse, they’re abstract, and they truly reflect Albee’s writing style.”

While the phrase “going further” is a direct quote from one of the evening’s one-acts, Finnegan actually chose the title of his piece for a different reason: “It alludes to Albee’s inclination to go further than most playwrights, especially when it comes to the disintegration of the American family.”

Despite being an absurdist piece, Finnegan said he is confident audiences will fully recognize themes and moments in the play that draw them back to experiences in their own lives.

The play is performed by only six actors, and is accompanied by a live musician.

“Going Further …” opens Thursday, Jan. 17, and runs for five performances, closing on Sunday, Jan. 20. Performances begin at 8 p.m., with Saturday and Sunday matinees at 2 p.m.

The production is in the Black Box Theatre in the CSUSB Performing Arts Building.

Tickets are $6. For tickets and information, call (909) 537-5884 or visit the theatre department website.