Eugene Ionesco
Robert Massin
Grove Press, New York, 1965, English

Meet the Smiths. They live in a typical house on a typical street, cheerfully entertaining typical friends and typical neighbors . . . in a world that’s anything but typical. Eugene Ionesco’s game-changing absurdist comedy tumbles us into a bizarre and brilliant comic universe, where time is out of joint, language has misplaced its meaning, and identity itself is up for grabs.

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Warren Lehrer

Just as the Romanian playwright Eugene Ionesco was dissatisfied with the naturalistic theater conventions of his day when he wrote his 1948 “anti-play” The Bald Soprano, the French graphic designer Robert Massin sought to break open the traditions of play scripts in his 1964 page staging of the absurdist work. High-contrast photographs of the cast/actors confront the reader from the very first page, and are used throughout to indicate who is speaking (à la comic books). Each character is set in a different typeface. Instead of a banal setting of monotonous line after line of text, Massin’s layouts of Ionesco’s turned-upside-down scenarios throb with energy, change with the nature of the dialogue, and reflect the whispers, shouts, revelations, and simultaneous talking that take place on stage. Sentences bend around the corner of a napkin, words wobble and warp between the lips of a man and woman who come to realize that they are married to each other, and hell breaks loose in a layered argument that careens across the page at different angles—all done decades before Adobe software and Apple computers became tools of the trade.

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