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THEATER REVIEW: “Request Programme” is a one-woman show about bleakness of worker's life

Adventurous theatergoers who missed Linda Libby’s amazing performance in ion theatre’s “Request Programme” in 2008 have another chance to see it this week.

“Request Programme” is a 70-minute show by German playwright Franz Xaver Kroetz, famous for experimental post-war plays of a type called “theater of the inarticulate,” depicting the bleakness of working-class existence. Loneliness and isolation are his norms; suicide sometimes a welcome option.

The one-person show plays through Jan. 28 at ion’s theater in Hillcrest.

In it, Miss Rasch (Libby) returns from work to her postage stamp-sized efficiency apartment and prepares for another solitary evening in her impossibly orderly home, neatly hanging suit jacket, placing shoes in the rack, carefully setting the table with place mat, smoothing the cloth napkin, placing the flatware.

She speaks not a word and allows only two sounds this night: a TV infomercial that she switches off within a minute or two, and a radio announcer (J. D. Steyers), who emcees a classical “Request Programme” of pieces dedicated to lovers and friends.

Her demeanor changes with the program. She seems to absorb energy through the radio waves, nodding a bit to the rhythm, even puffing her cigarette with more vigor.

But soon the program is over, and she returns to her world of ritual. She cleans obsessively – the sink, the toilet, anything she touches. On the sink, her arsenal of lotions and salves line up with kitchen cleaning products. Nothing is allowed to be out of place.

When the program is over, she turns her attention to a rug-hooking project, which she approaches with the same grim determination that seems to rule the rest of her life. Her face darkens a bit as she considers a stitch that may be, dare I say it, less than perfect, then puts the project way and prepares for bed.

“Request Programme” is grim, interior theater, definitely not for the Neil Simon crowd or those expecting a traditional play. It may require more of you than you are willing to give. But if on-the-edge experimental theater is your bag, don’t miss this production and Libby’s stunning performance.

The details

“Request Programme” plays through Jan. 28 at ion theatre, 3704 Sixth Ave. in Hillcrest.

Thursday and Friday at 8 pm; Saturday at 4 and 8 pm.

For tickets, call (619) 600-5020 or visit HERE.

To read more reviews by SDGLN Theater Critic Jean Lowerison, click HERE.