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The Hawks' Herald

The Student News Site of Roger Williams University

The Hawks' Herald

The Student News Site of Roger Williams University

The Hawks' Herald

Plays From the Theater of the Absurd

Marisa Cestone
The cast of RWU’s Theatre of the Absurd One Acts on opening night. Clockwise from left: Korbin Johnson, Jack Beasley, Irina Benttinen, Audrey Belanger, Nicole Kowalewski, Madison Collins, Sophia Thomas, Grace Kortchmar, Alec Corrado, Greyson Simons.

From February 23 to March 2 the RWU Stage Company presented “Theatre of the Absurd,” a collection of 4 short plays connected by their exploration of the absurd and fantastical world they are set in and the humor that can be found in that. The most absurd part of it all? One of these plays has been written entirely by AI.

The absurdist genre was started in 1942 with the works of Albert Camus, though some argue the genre has roots in early works Camus certainly defined the genre for years to come. Absurdism focuses on characters trying to respond to insane situations in front of them, with humor being mined from the character’s calm reactions contrasted with the wacky events around them. The 4 one-act plays featured at the Barn these past weeks were carefully selected by members of the cast as the best representatives of this genre.    

The first play follows a soldier whose parents make a surprise visit to the battlefront since they are worried he might be bored. While the main character struggles to survive his parents seem unable to comprehend the tragedy in front of them and instead act as though they are having a picnic in the countryside. As the play goes on even more ridiculous characters appear all seeming unable, or unwilling, to understand the terror in front of them and instead treat tasks like collecting dead bodies as a game they hope to win. 

The second play is one more focused on the horror side of the absurd concept. In this, a radio host and his employees conduct an absurd interrogation involving nonsensical poetic answers and a brutal beating. This play relied almost entirely on the actors’ skills and ability to create believable emotions while rarely looking at the other actors, relying entirely on their voices.   

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The next play was the shortest, featuring four military characters conversing in the desert about the meaning of life. The standout of this play was the assistant who had to submerge their head in a water bucket and then sing a parody of the meme song Berries and Cream with the new lyrics of pickles and death.    

The final performance was my favorite following a very unique couple, their grandmother and an NPC (a term originating from video games meaning non-playable character) enjoying the beach together. While at first the play makes no sense it slowly peels back its layers revealing it to be a funny and heartbreaking tale of loss and death.   

As always with productions at the Barn, Plays From the Theater of the Absurd keeps the audience captivated and entertained for the entire run time. This small cast balanced the humor in this absurdist play while exploring the deep themes around death, war, and life. Leaving the performance you are left with a question, that I now pass onto you the reader: Which one was written by AI? And what does it mean if we can’t tell them apart?   


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