While it might be too early to start thinking about Santa Claus and decorated evergreens, Urbana’s Station Theatre is finishing its summer season with a play that takes place during Christmastime.
On July 23, the Station will begin its run of Absurd Person Singular, a dark, but silly comedy about subverting the social status quo; and, unique to this production, Station’s veteran actress, Joi Hoffsommer, will be making her directorial debut.
Written by prolific British playwright Alan Ayckbourn, Absurd Person Singular takes place in England during the year it premiered (1972) and follows three couples celebrating three successive Christmases. The couples range in social standing from young up-and-comers to older, well-established elites. Each of the play’s three acts take place in different couples’ kitchens.
“We’re doing one basic kitchen and then we’re dressing it differently,” director Hoffsommer said. She explained that props used in kitchens will denote the couple’s status; the props in the lower class couple’s kitchen will vary greatly from those for the upper class couple’s kitchen.
Hoffsommer saw a production of Absurd not too long after it first premiered, thought it was funny, and had an inkling that she might like to do it someday. Working with her cast of six, who all have previously appeared on Station’s stage, Hoffsommer said she hopes to accomplish having the actors “bring their own sense of silliness and absurdity to the situation.”
“She’s very much an actor’s director,” said Katie Baldwin, who plays Jane Hopcroft, the housewife of the young, enterprising couple. “I’ve never worked with a director who trusted me so much.” Baldwin said that the play is really funny without being dirty, and that the scenes are played as real, not “cartoony.”
While Absurd Person Singular seems to be all humor, Hoffsommer points to the play’s commentary on our desire for status, social climbing, and the politics of social status. And the play’s darker moments may elicit some uncomfortable laughs.
“It’s dark in the way that we laugh at something that’s so awful it’s funny,” Hoffsommer said.
Absurd Person Singular opens Thursday, July 23 and runs through August 1. Tickets are $8 on Wednesdays, $10 on Thursdays and Sundays, and $15 on Fridays and Saturdays. To reserve tickets, call Station Theatre’s box office at 384-4000.