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Nobody has sardonic smiles down pat quite like the raucous, challenging, giddy ensemble over at Trap Door Theatre. The European-styled company has a knack for utilizing Trojan horse sweetness to turn dense manifestos melliferous. So, when Ruth Margraff opens her new play, inspired by Ionesco’s La Colère, with an upbeat a cappella tune and a town full of fresh-faced churchgoers sporting ear-to-ear grins, you can bet your Sunday bonnet there’ll be some hell to pay by the end.
In Margraff’s case, it’s the extermination of humanity, and it all starts with a bug in a bowl of soup. Tramp, social commentator and literal fly-on-the-wall Antonio Brunetti dissects marriages, class hierarchies and social contracts from the fringe of his blissfully ignorant, well-to-do fellow townsfolk as they scapegoat and conform themselves to their own demise. Mimicking absurdist playwright Ionesco’s deliberate, playful sense of alienation, director Kate Hendrickson stylizes Margraff’s adaptation with video installations, bubble blowers, heightened expressionist gestures, pop music and a candy-colored kaleidoscope orgy, the result being as comprehensible as that all sounds. Hendrickson’s excellent cast manages the dark comedy and helps clarify the sometimes overwrought ideas, making the frequently overstuffed head-scratchers entertaining, if not always convincing.