Playwright Nick Cassenbaum has teamed up with the Square Pegs Young Actors’ Company to devise the new absurdist comedy 1 Singular Sensation, in which a menagerie of different characters present a satirical take on our contemporary world. Although there is great potential for humour in the script, the large size of the cast and poor blocking means that the production falls rather flat.
Throughout the piece we are introduced to a dizzying number of caricatures who are missing something – three journalists cannot find an angle, a priest has no empathy, and a trombonist has no trombone. It is not immediately clear how all of these characters are connected. You could make a case that this is a holistic view of today’s society – a journalist manipulates the other characters onstage, and three showgirls believe that they have been portrayed inaccurately to the audience (but that everyone else’s caricature is correct) – but the lack of interaction between the different stories makes it difficult to draw all the strands together meaningfully. Illogical situations and juxtapositions are of course typical of surreal comedy, but this particular play is in danger of straying from the absurd to totally random.
It is rare that the characters go offstage, which means that the action gets lost in an overcrowded stage. Often the characters who are speaking do so from the back of the stage where they cannot be seen, or must scramble over each other to reach the front in time. The rest of the cast meanwhile need to decide whether to stand still while other characters are talking, or to all engage in activity until it is their turn to speak. As it is, only some of the cast keep performing throughout whilst the rest remain frozen in bland positions. The result looks disjointed, and is somewhat distracting.
The “three incompetents” and the doctor are a breath of fresh air against the rest of the piece. They make fantastic caricatures, with loud voices, big gestures, and fast-paced arguments that evidence the surreal humour the rest of the play is looking for. The rest of the performance unfortunately feels somewhat slow in comparison to the high energy that their segments bring.