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Offending the Audience
Playwright Peter Henke is regarded as one of Austria's most important contemporary figure and also something of an enfant terrible playwright. One of his other plays, Kaspar, ends with the words "goats and monkeys" repeated for several minutes.
Jim Simpson directs a cast of twenty-two of the Flea's acting interns, the Bats. The piece begins with a a group of Bats standing on a completely bare stage. No props. No costumes, No sound effects. Just the actors facing the audience. And the house lights never go down.
For an hour, the actors demonstrate all the ways in which Offending the Audience is not a play. As there are no props, they are not acting. Nothing pretends to be anything else. There is no fourth wall here. But the actors do not ignore the audience. Instead they attempt to deliberately engage and provoke them. The effect is much like a long lecture with the audience informed —over and over again— that any theatrical expectations they've brought to the theater are wrong and will not be met..
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And yes, the title is accurate. By the time the play (or whatever you want to call it) ends the actors are provoking the audience, calling them names and moving into the seating area. The curtain call consists of the actors simply stopping, then staring at the audience members, almost daring them to begin clapping. It takes a couple of minutes for most audiences to get it.
Needless to say, this will not be everyone.s cup of theatrical tea. If the production is successful, the audience will go away annoyed. If the production fails, the audience will go away annoyed. Regardless of whether you like what you see and hear, it will not be a comfortable hour. It.s abrupt, challenging,often repetitive. It's also contradictory and gives you nothing familiar to grab on to. It is, however, a great demonstration of the range and versatility of both the Flea Theatre and its resident acting company, The Bats. With not one character to portray, these young thespians do a great job with the material.
Director Jim Simpson keeps the play neutral and disconcerting. He resists the temptation to break up the lines so that the individual actors can assert some sort of individuality or with any one passage or sentiment. This is borne out by the fact that they are all dressed in all black and, unless speaking, remain seated on a single black bench against the wall of an all black room. Every member of the cast is equally earnest and all do a great job of maintaining the wild shifts between prolonged uncomfortable silences and nearly unbearably loud recitation.
As you probably guessed, Offending the Audience is not done very often so this might be your only chance to see this unusual non-play — and in a very good production. And here's a hint: When the black curtain is pulled across the stage, and then removed, that's the end of the play. It's okay to clap.
Try onlineseats.com for great seats to
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