“The Linguists” at the Midtown International Theatre Festival at the Jewel Box Theatre (Closed July 21, 2013)

Written and Directed by EJ Sepp
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited

Following in the footsteps of the likes of Samuel Beckett, Eugène Ionesco, Jean Genet, Harold Pinter, Tom Stoppard, Friedrich Dürrenmatt, Alejandro Jodorowsky, Fernando Arrabal, Vaclav Havel and Edward Albee is a formidable task to undertake. Even to attempt to write a play in the absurdist genre is an impressive accomplishment.

EJ Sepp introduced his new (and his first) play to the pre-curtain audience by reminding them that it was all right to be confused; in fact, being somewhat confused during and after viewing his short play would be a good thing indeed. One would only have hoped for a higher degree of confusion resulting in deep thought and the asking of rich questions. What the audience did receive was a somewhat successful foray into the world of the theatre of the absurd.

Edna (played deliciously by Jo Young) steps ever so carefully through the detritus which occupies her home and beyond the borders of her domicile. Aptly named Man (think Every Man), her husband (John Dorcic) does little other than occupy the toilet and read the newspaper (sometimes upside down) and aggravate Edna throughout her quest for those who can – unlike newscasters – properly pronounce ‘Qatar.’ One assumes at least a healthy portion of the detritus is a result of the Man’s unnamed “condition.”

Her sometimes companion in her pilgrimages for linguistic purity and sensitivity is her dead cat (which is not a cat) ‘Fido.” The pair (Edna still trying to avoid life’s dross) encounters a Young Woman (Olivia Cordero) and a Young Man (Kelsey Barnhart) who, though they attempt to sidestep Edna, land themselves in her home where they experience one absurd onslaught after another including afternoon tea consisting of only hot water and repeated queries about the correct pronunciation of the aforementioned “Qatar’ written on pieces of paper extruded from best unmentioned parts of Edna’s anatomy.

The worst assault comes from Edna’s half-Zulu shaman friend (one would have hoped we learned our lesson from the 1939 “King Kong” film but apparently not) who offensively adds to the mix of absurd happenings.

This entire search for linguistic purity and accuracy in pronunciation serves as an interesting trope – here an extended metaphor – for managing all of life’s absurdity and lack of meaning. Whether EJ Sepp’s play is confusing or has the ability to make the audience think is quite another matter and better left in the hands of each audience member who will hopefully have the opportunity to see “The Linguists” in the future.