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Rants, Raves and Reviews: The Stone Face - When Funny meets Absurd

The Stone Face by Sherry  MacDonald
The Waterfront Theatre
Damfino Theatre
October 25- November 10, 2007
Vancouver, BC:

Sam:        To be is to be perceived
Buster:        To be perceived is to be


Alan:   The film, Film, is about the object versus the    subject. Titling the film simply Film, in effect draws attention to the subject as a reflection of its viewed self


In her play, The Stone Face, that premiered last night at The Waterfront, local playwright Sherry MacDonald skillfully manages to pay homage to Buster Keaton and Samuel Beckett while jibing at subjects as diverse as theatre of the absurd, Abbott and Costello and academic literary theory. As one who admires the dedication of the many writers who toil in solitude, writing and polishing books which don't get published or plays that don't get produced, it's a real pleasure for me to see The Stone Face brought to life on stage.I saw a much earlier version at the Playwrights Theatre Centre New Play Festival in May 2004 and it is interesting to see the evolution from previous draft to final production.

Kevin McKendrick directs a cast of established local professionals. The Stone Face imagines the interactions between an elderly Buster Keaton (Alex Diakun), his second wife Eleanor (Anna Hagan), Samuel Beckett (Terence Kelly) and Alan Schneider (Allan Zinyk) as they meet to plan and make the film, Film. A director of "significant" live theatre - "we don't pad Beckett" – Schneider struggles to make sense of the surreal world of Keaton gags while absurdist Beckett sees nothing odd about it. Kyle Rideout represents the image of the young Buster Keaton. His physical work with the movable pieces of Yulia Stern's set bring the silent movies to mind, while Ronin Wong's music and sound design evoke a sense of the times.

Many well worn gags find their way into the action. I really enjoyed MacDonald's subject/object riff on the old Who's On First" routine. Casting Zinyk, the consummate comic, as a "serious" director who spouts absurd pseudo-academic theory to justify his art film shots, turns things inside out much like Skelton's gag.  

And then there are the metaphysical meditations ... So when does a play transcend its "being" as a literary object or dramatic composition and become a PLAY? Is it when the playwright's words are animated by costumed actors performing on a set with sound and lights or does it require the perception of an audience? Some people do still discuss these things – you know the "tree falling in a forest" and "the sound of one hand clapping" bit.

Well both my hands are clapping. The play is original, clever and funny and the cast pulls it off, garden hose and all.