"We won't promise you anything, but can we keep that promise?"
So asks the Netherlands' Theatergroep Max, which brings its "Performance in Which Hopefully Nothing Happens" to the eyes of area children next weekend.
Imagine "Monty Python's Flying Circus" scaled down for pint-sized audiences — a subversive effort in making kids (and teens) think critically about theater.
Described by the Herald newspaper of Glasgow, Scotland, as "intellectual pranksters with a flair for clowning," Theatergroep Max brings the tradition of the theater of the absurd, best known through plays like "Waiting for Godot" and "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead" to children.
The silly, award-winning production challenges the notions of children as to what constitutes a performance, and what is it to watch and make theater, through a deconstructed set and plot in which an actor is forbidden to go onstage by a frazzled security guard. At first, upon seeing an empty stage, children are led to believe that nothing is going to happen, that their trip was for nothing — but then the fun begins.
Although recommended for kids 7 and older, the production frequently is staged for adolescents and young adults as well, and even the most jaded theatergoers can appreciate its absurdist premise.
After all, Shakespeare is said to be the king of the absurd, as best expressed by his Macbeth, who famously said that "Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player/That struts and frets his hour upon the stage/And then is heard no more: It is a tale/Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury/Signifying nothing."
Theatergroep Max has performed "Performance" in many countries, and its universal appeal makes it an audience favorite everywhere from Liechtenstein to Nashville.
It won the prestigious Golden Cricket award in 2005 for the show. The award jury declared at the time, "When you open with an empty stage, you're either insane or a genius. At Theatergroep Max, this is both allowed; they don't mind about conventions, they've got guts."
The show is part of the Segerstrom Center for the Arts' new Explorer Series, created for kids 7 and older. It complements the center's newly named Discovery Series, which offers performances for kids ages 4 to 8.
One hour prior to each performance, the center will offer free play activities and a reading area for families to learn and create together.
If You Go
Who: Theatergroep Max
What: "Performance in Which Hopefully Nothing Happens"
When: May 21 and 22
Where: Samueli Theater, Segerstrom Center for the Arts, 600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa
Age: Recommended for ages 7 and up.