Three tables: Theater of the Absurd

Photo by Jenny Graham Laura Liguori, Dennis Renard, Eric Stanton Betts, and Raquel Cain in the World Premiere of Murray Mednick’s “Three Tables” on stage at the Zephyr Theatre.

By Lady Beverly Cohn

Murray Mednick’s THREE TABLES is the newest work from the famous poet/playwright who spearheaded New York’s off-off-Broadway movement in the ’60s. Presented by the Padua Playwrights, the production premiered under his direction at the Zephyr Theatre on Melrose Avenue.

To give you a theatrical reference point to Mednick’s complicated, non-linear play, it could fall into two categories: Theatre of the Absurd* and Existentialism,** or perhaps a little of both. For some background, some of the most influential people in the Existentialism Movement were either social philosophers or psychiatrists as it applied to the human condition. A few of the most famous philosophers include: Friedrich Nietzsche, Martin Heidegger, Viktor E. Frankl, Martin Buber, Karl Japers, Erich Fromm, Colin Wilson, Søren Kierkegaard, and Albert Camus, who influenced the emerging Theatre of the Absurd.

Some of the most famous playwrights whose seminal bodies of works reflected this stylized form of theater, include Eugene Ionesco, (The Bald Soprano,) Samuel Beckett, (Waiting for Godot,) Jean-Paul Sartre (No Exit,) Jean Genet, (The Blacks,) Harold Pinter (The Birthday Party,) Tom Stoppard (Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead,) and Edward Albee (The Zoo Story.)

I present you with these references to give you an idea on how to understand a play that is quite, quite obtuse without a distinguishable through-line. Clearly influenced by some of the above-mentioned playwrights, Mednick takes us through approximately sixty minutes of rambling, stream of consciousness, disconnected dialogue The sparce set has three unmatched tables filled with his ensemble of actors who are in a restaurant taking a break from rehearsals. The subjects on which the different characters comment include a broad range of topics from the Holocaust, climate change, relationships, to bomb scares, and black holes.

There is a bizarre reference to an unseen body of water downstage along with an unseen woman who is drowning, perhaps referencing the polluted state of our oceans and rivers. One of the characters says: “I look in the mirror. It’s not me” and at one point, we hear Beethoven’s 5th as one of the characters riffs on growing up in New York and sleeping on the fire escape to get some respite from the intense summer heat and humidity. (I can really relate to that.) Each member of the ensemble breaks the fourth wall and talks to the audience about his or her observations, sometimes even singing the dialogue, nicely done by Dennis Renard and Raquel Cain. A waiter serves unseen glasses of wine (nice sense memory) and comments are made on creeping fascism in the U.S. One could summarize by saying perhaps this is an existential meditation or existential dread on all that is wrong in the world, holding out little hope for our physical or psychic survival. It also could be a wake-up call to take action before it’s too late, if indeed, it’s not too late already.

The rest of the excellent cast includes: Eric Stanton Betts, John Fantasia, Laura Liguori, Corey Rieger, Richard Sabine, Michael Uribes. Considering the complex, disconnected nature of the dialogue, they all did a commendable job in trying to make sense out of very obtuse material.

*Theatre of the Absurd: Plays that seek to represent the absurdity of human existence in a meaningless universe by bizarre or fantastic means.
**Existentialism: A 20TH Century philosophical movement centering on analysis of individual existence in an unfathomable universe and the plight of the individual who must assume ultimate responsibility for acts of free will without any certain knowledge of what is right or wrong or good or bad.

Zephyr Theatre
7456 Melrose Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90046
Fridays & Saturdays: 8:00 p.m.
Sundays: 3:00 p.m. 2:00 & 7:00 p.m.
Closing: Sunday, May 22, 2022
Running Time: Approximately 60 minutes (no intermission)
Tickets: $25.00

Three tables: Theater of the Absurd