A review of the performance of The Killing Game at The New School of Northern Virginia on Friday, February 22.
No amount of cleansing and disinfectant will guarantee safety; even the air is hazardous. The symptoms appear only seconds before death, and it spreads without needing physical contact. The Plague is back, and there is no escape. On the New School of Northern Virginia stage, the Killing Game has begun.
Eugène Ionesco was a Romanian and French playwright and dramatist, known as one of the foremost playwrights of the Theatre of the Absurd. Besides ridiculing the most overdone, vapid situations, he tangibly depicted the solitude and insignificance of human existence through his work. His play The Killing Game, written in 1970, is notable, among other things, for most likely holding the theatrical record for most deaths on stage. His keenly comedic overkill continues through almost every scene in the play; however, Ionesco is not so much concerned with death itself as with what happens to people in a society that perceives itself under threat and how easily freedoms are compromised and manipulated by fear. The play heavily centers around observations on mass delirium, elitism, panic, and government control. The play is told through a series of vignettes, but the premise is simple: people start dying, and then everyone goes hysterical.
One of the most distinguished contributors to the entire production, Jonathan Halverson not only dominantly interpreted his multiple roles but also designed some of the technical facets of the show. Concerning his acting, Halverson energetically conveyed the physical aspects of his scenes, whether it was with comedy or his powerful collapses from the hovering disease. Halverson also deftly portrayed his skill with voice adjustments and accents as he took on characters from an excessively high-strung man suffering from mysophobia to an exasperated German political figure.
Practically as energetic and dedicated, Kamryn Leoncavallo also transitioned well between her many characters and delivered engaging death scenes, complimenting her cast’s zestful energy and grasp on the absurdist nature of the play. Additionally, Ross Rubin comically included an outstanding Russian accent alongside comical physicality, adding varying twists to his deaths and committing to his roles. Lastly, Felicia Clinton and Vince Vilasi equally incorporated supplementary spiritedness and enthusiasm, portraying their characters with admirable goodwill.
Technologically speaking, New School embraced their resources and melded together commendable features to add to their performance. A pronounced concept for the show, the hats manifested the transitions between different characters, contrasting sharply against the completely white costumes symbolizing sterility and innocence. The sound cues were laudably clean and meritoriously completed, along with the simple yet effective lighting design and execution. The set remained basic and uncomplicated, fitting appropriately with the rest of the technical concepts including the simple but successful special effects.
Commendably moving, New School honorably interpreted the absurdist elements of Ionesco’s play, incorporating entertaining yet thought provoking technical aspects, acting, and dedication. The cast’s vivacity and commitment to each and every death and character successfully captured the diligence and painstaking work required for the production to effectively communicate Ionesco’s themes.