Eugène Ionesco’s The Chairs is one of the playwright’s most popular plays. First performed in Paris on April 22, 1952, The Chairs was only the third of Ionesco’s plays to be produced. At the time, Ionesco was still a struggling playwright.
Most critics and audiences did not know what to make of The Chairs. In the play, an elderly couple sets up chairs and greets invisible guests who have come to hear the Old Man’s message to the world. The message is left in the hands of an Orator after the couple commits suicide, but he is deaf-mute and cannot relay it.
In the program for the original production, Ionesco writes, ‘‘As the world is incomprehensible to me, I am waiting for someone to explain it.’’ As the idea of a theater of the absurd—a literary form that explored the futility of human existance—evolved, The Chairs came to be seen as a seminal example of the genre, highlighting the loneliness and futility of human existence.
By the time the play was revived in Paris in 1956, most critics and audiences lauded Ionesco for his unique staging and profound sense of humor. Since these early productions, The Chairs is still regularly performed worldwide.