Absurdist Theater Unleashed in “The Real Inspector Hound”

Photo courtesy of Aaron Tuttle

Photo courtesy of Aaron Tuttle

By Eduardo D. Rossal

Moments of laughter erupted during nights of interactive live theater in the show “The Real Inspector Hound” held in the Backstage Theatre on Cheyenne campus April 10 to 19.

“The Real Inspector Hound” is a play within a play. Part of the story centers around two theater critics Moon and Birdboot, who are reviewing a play in London. The other narrative arc is about a murder at Muldoon Manor. It is a typical setting for the detective genre. Nearby the Manor, a madman is on the loose and a storm on the horizon. Unbeknownst to the residents there is a dead body sprawled out across the floor of the drawing room. Police led by Inspector Hound cannot get in to the house.

The show was directed by Aaron Tuttle. The cast of the show included the following actors: Matthew Kraning, who played Moon; Sega Shines, who played Birdboot; Ariana Jeter, who played Mrs. Drudge; Thomas Gallion, who played Simon Gascoyne; Angelina Ervin, who played Felicity Cunningham; Aubrey Williams, who played Cynthia Muldoon; Oscar Antonio Damasco, who played Magnus; and Adam Yeager, who played Inspector Hound.

What made this show unique was the use of Absurdism.

Tom Stoppard, playwright for “The Real Inspector Hound,” was one of the first to venture into the realm of Absurdism in theater. The play is written and acted in a way that characters are lost and floating in an incomprehensible universe. They abandon rational devices, thoughts and act in irrational ways that they think is rational. This type of theater allows audience participation and can be full of dark drama and humor.

“Many Absurd plays have a cyclical structure so the nightmare becomes a recurring dream within the play,” said Douglas Hill, researcher and developer for the play. “The ironic thing about Absurdism is that for all of the grim elements that make up the Absurdist style, most theater of the Absurd plays are hysterically funny.”

Hill said, “While many people hear Absurdism and believe it’s merely a term for any quirky or strange play, for theater practitioners Absurdism is a specific style of theater. For instance, Absurdist plays are rooted in Existentialist philosophy.”

“Absurd characters are often like passengers on a speeding bus with no driver at the wheel,” Hill said. “The characters try to survive an impressive amount of outrageous circumstances but often aren’t sure why they’re doing it.”

“This show is unique in that it breaks many rules of theater,” said Aaron Tuttle, play’s director. Along with the absurdity of the play itself, Tuttle had to instruct his actors to ignore some of the method-acting rules he taught them in class. For this play they had to overact with big loud gestures and use some improvisation.

“In the audience we know what we think reality looks like,” Hill said. “We’ve been taught this from watching hundreds of hours of television and movies. But when the audience steps into the world of Absurdism the rules change.”

The actors enjoyed bringing Absurdism to the stage during the show’s run.

Thomas Gallion, actor who plays Simon Gascoyne in “The Real Inspector Hound,” said, “You have to approach it with a sense of humor and see yourself in a kind of ridiculous light. It’s very fun. It’s like living out a really bad soap opera. I don’t think we grasped how over the top this play could be until we started rehearsals.”

“Theater of the Absurd gives us the opportunity to laugh at the nightmare of the modern world,” Hill said.

The cast (photo courtesy of Aaron Tuttle)

The cast (photo courtesy of Aaron Tuttle)

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