Formed in a climate of soul-searching, intensive reading, and recurring bouts of madness, Arthur Adamov’s early plays offer an original, highly personal (if depersonalized) artistic deformation of perceived reality, rivaling in their finest moments the dramatized nightmares of Eugène Ionesco. As with Ionesco, the dialogue is more often serviceable than memorable; in transcribing his disturbing visions, Adamov was less concerned with prose style than with the evocation of memorable scenes. Adamov’s first play, La Parodie (although third or fourth to be performed), is his most derivative; although based on personal experience, it relies heavily on August Strindberg and on the conventions of German expressionism. By contrast, L’Invasion, Le Sens de la marche, Professor Taranne, and especially Ping-Pong bear the mark of a singular, mature talent, breaking new ground in the development of contemporary drama. Although comparable in many ways to the works of Ionesco and Beckett, they could have been written only by Adamov. Professor Taranne, offering the unforgettable spectacle of an apparently distinguished man systematically and symbolically stripped of his identity, is by any standard a landmark in the evolution of contemporary drama. So also is Ping-Pong, with its portrayal of humankind’s fascination with games and machines that effectively predicted and parodied the era of computers and video games...
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