Go Deeper Idiopathic Ridiculopathy Consortium Peels Back the Layers of This Absurd World

Idiopathic Ridiculopathy Consortium Peels Back the Layers of This Absurd World

Posted May 18th, 2018

“The absurd is not in man…nor in the world, but in their presence together”—Albert Camus

Each Fringe Festival, the Idiopathic Ridiculopathy Consortium’s entry into the Fringe Festival is one of the first shows on the schedule and one of the most frequently performed. After several years exploring the works of French avant-garde playwright Eugene Ionesco (Rhinoceros [2014], Exit the King [2015], The Chairs [2016], Bald Soprano [2017]), the absurdist theater company switches its 2018 Fringe Festival attention to Tennessee Williams with a staging of his seldom-performed The Eccentricities of a Nightingale, September 4–23,  at The Bethany Mission Gallery. First though, IRC pads their Festival budget this Sunday, May 20, with a special one-night performance of Raw Onion 2018: Comfort Food.

The cast of IRC’s Raw Onion 2018: Comfort Food.

An annual tradition  at L’Etage Cabaret since 2008, Raw Onion stages commentary pieces from satirical magazine The Onion.

The show traces its history to acting classes in the early ’00s. “We began testing out material from magazines: editorials mostly, to see how the thoughts on the page held up/could be adjusted slightly for drama and comedy,” says Idiopathic Ridiculopathy Consortium artistic director Tina Brock. “One of our favorite characters was the alter ego of Herbert Kornfeld, an employee in the accounts receivable department at Midstate Office Supply [in a fictitious Onion column]. A guy in class worked up one of Herbert’s monologues, it was ridiculous. We continued to test out this material in class, figuring out how to activate the words that were written to be read.”

IRC contacted The Onion for permission rights to perform pieces from the commentary section. Now the challenge lies in selecting material to illustrate the current gestalt, where real-world headlines feel drawn from the pages of The Onion.

“Since the election, selecting material for the IRC seasons (both Onion and regular mainstage season) has become a different challenge,” explains Brock. “Since the daily news is far more absurd than anything the IRC could present, the question becomes what is the response to that, as opposed to illustrating the thing. It would be a daunting task to outdo theatrically the current political situation.”

Brock feels that now “nothing – no subject, no point of view — is too sacred to spoof. Because the mood is more extreme, more dangerous, more divided, there’s more material and more need for material. The line between what’s real news/real people and fake news/fake people is so unclear.”

But to her, what is so scary as a citizen can be liberating as a performer and comforting for the audience. “Spoofing what has truly become frightening is one way of finding comfort.”

Running 70 minutes with 15 5-minute (memorized) monologues from Onion pages, Comfort Food reminds us we can always laugh at the world’s absurdity. It’s a theme that runs to the core of IRC’s mission and fuels every show it presents, from Raw Onion to the Fringe Festival and throughout the company’s seasons.

“The material and the presentation in this show is very akin to the humor and presentation that audiences will see in a regular season IRC show,” says Brock, “performed by many familiar faces from IRC shows over the past 12 years.”

—Christopher Munden

What: Raw Onion 2018: Comfort Food
When: Sunday, May 20, 2018
Where: L’Etage Cabaret, 624 S. Sixth Street
Cost: $25
Performed by Jane Moore, David Stanger , Carol Florence, Bill Rayhill, Tomas Dura, Sharon Geller, Michael Harrah, Jenna Kuerzi, Michelle Pauls, Dan Scully, Melissa Amilani