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Highbrow Fun in the Sunshine State

Jan 09 2008
Terry Teachout | The Wall Street Journal

...the land of year-round tans is also home to a good-sized number of professional theater companies, several of which have outstanding reputations and two of which are currently putting on shows that couldn't be much eggheadier. ..."The Chairs," Eugène Ionesco's surreal parable about the apparent meaninglessness of life... is, in fact, a close-to-ideal piece of work, vibrantly staged by J. Barry Lewis and acted with colossal gusto by Barbara Bradshaw, Dan Leonard and Shel Shanak in a set designed by Michael Amico that looks like a long-abandoned waterfront warehouse. The "plot" of "The Chairs" is easily told and easily understood: Ms. Bradshaw and Mr. Leonard play a nonagenarian couple who spend their days prattling nonsensically to one another and awaiting the arrival of an "orator" (Mr. Shanak) who will proclaim their "message" to the waiting world. We are given to believe that Mr. Leonard has figured out the meaning of life, and the stage gradually fills up with empty chairs on which are seated the members of his imaginary audience. Then the orator arrives, and turns out to be . . . a deaf-mute. Curtain! ..."The Chairs," whose zesty, near-vaudevillian comic turns enliven a vision of man's fate that might otherwise be paralyzingly dark -- especially when you see it in the Sunshine State. All hail Palm Beach Dramaworks for dishing up such formidable fare, and doing it in high style.