To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Santa Monica Playhouse, Chris DeCarlo and Evelyn Rudie have brought back to the boards the double bill with which the theater opened its doors in 1960: Chekhov's delightfully ridiculous "The Boor" and Ionesco's bizarre and doubly hilarious "The Bald Soprano." Considering the half-century separating the births of the writers, the two short plays represent a solidarity of style and a strangely shared belief that words are just tools for the imagination that only suggest the connection, or disconnection, between humans. Chekhov uses words to explain the human roundelay; Ionesco uses situations that sometimes speak louder than a barrage of talk. Rudie and DeCarlo gloriously use both in such a practiced manner that we know when to listen and when to just enjoy.
DeCarlo's Boor, bumbling tradesman Grigori Stepanovich Smirnov, needs to collect a debt from Rudie's grieving Popova, a preening, self-absorbed widow of seven months. The two unmatched characters are obviously meant for each other; the outcome is clear from the start and eternally hilarious. James Hassett, Cason Murphy, Celeste Akiki, and Serena Dolinsky are quite right as Popova's bewildered servants.
"The Bald Soprano" throws meaning to the winds as two clueless couples—Rudie and DeCarlo as the querulous hosts, and Murphy and Dolinsky as the reluctant guests—try to make sense of the play they're in. It takes Hassett as a storytelling Fire Chief in search of a fire to break the ice with his hatchet—or his ridiculous stories. Akiki flaunts nicely as the obligatory French Maid.
It's a good vein Santa Monica Playhouse has tapped, along with a perpetual funny bone. Here's to the next half-century of this lively repertory theater!
Presented by and at the Santa Monica Playhouse, 1211 Fourth St., Santa Monica. April 23–May 28. Fri., 8 p.m. (310) 394-9779, ext. 1. www.santamonicaplayhouse.com.