To the editors:
I really must protest Tom Valeo's review of Alliance Theatre's Killing Game in your April 17 issue. Mr. Valeo, who is normally a perceptive and thoughtful critic, seems to have missed the point of the play and the production.
It is true that Ionesco's play concerns itself with a mysterious, fatal disease similar in effect to AIDS. (And the fact that the play predates the disease by some 15 years while describing it so closely is indeed remarkable and eerie.) However, Killing Game is not about AIDS nor even about disease, but rather about people's reactions to disease, death, and the unknown.
It is to Alliance's credit, not detriment, that they decided not to make this an "AIDS" play. Since Mr. Valeo actually was able to recognize the similarities between the situations in the play and the current AIDS mass hysteria, the production did indeed succeed as an AIDS allegory. However, Mr. Valeo also noted the general death philosophy and its relation to life and the absurd. This is an important dimension, to both the play and the production which might have been lost had the director taken the single-minded tack which Mr. Valeo suggests.
For my part, Ionesco seems to have written an attack against national malaise and apathy, against mindless bureaucracy, and against prejudices and preconceptions between conflicting generation, racial, socioeconomic, geographic, and artistic groups. The final statement -- told in a beautifully acted scene between an optimistic old woman and an embittered old man -- is about how all conflicting viewpoints, both positive and negative, need each other to survive and the best one can do is to accept and keep going. Killing Game is a very rich play. (I do agree, however, it is a little too long, didactic, and episodic for the best theater.) A strict, modern, AIDS-related interpretation would have narrowed the perspective to the point where many of the layers would have been lost.
K.C. Helmied, the director, and Alliance Theatre have presented an honest, clear rendition of Ionesco's work. The audience is allowed to make its own conclusions, relate the metaphors to its own experiences, and judge the true worth of the play -- not the director's "concept." By not imbuing the play with a limiting (although valid) interpretation, Alliance created an exciting evening of theater -- gaining all the benefit of the AIDS interpretation without sacrificing other levels of meaning. I am surprised Mr. Valeo did not recognize that.