i, malvolio is a british play that is being performed at the duke theater on 42 st, ny – part of the new victory theatre. part abject clown, part theatre-hating disciplinarian, malvolio asks his audience to explore the pleasure we take in other people’s suffering. it is a one man’s play which is well-acted and well-written by tim crouch, with a blend of comedy – witty one-liners, bathroom humor – mixed with ethical consciousness. It is part of a series of I characters [has nothing to do with iphones! or technology], who were minor and disregarded figures taken from some of shakespeare’s plays.
i, malvolio retells the story of twelfth night’s scorned figure, malvolio. crouch’s idea with this play and others he’s done was to tell the story of the regular people, not only the kings’, queens’ and dukes’ stories. he’s also done i, caliban (the enslaved man beast from the tempest); i, peaseblossom (the fairy from midsummer night dream) and i, banquo (the murdered comrade in macbeth).
I, malvolio opens on a direct attack on the audience for their many sins, which range from littering the streets [actually throwing a piece of balled up paper on the stage in front of him] to smoking cigarettes to …the list is exhaustive! malvolio intends to rave revenge on the actual audience for his abuse, and often hurls negative comments at the audience because of their complacency. he wants a reaction from them, but gets none.
what’s fascinating is the play’s application to real-life actions and situations, to everyman, to all people who have become insensitive to everything from smoking cigarettes to littering the streets, expecting others to pick up after them. it is reminiscent of the theatre of ‘absurdity’ [minus the outrageous props] thanks to its ethical consciousness on things which we, as malvolio says, cannot change. like ubu roi by alfred jarry, this play shows how awful humans can be to each other, seen thoruhg the eyes of a misanthropic and wornged genius. like ubu roi, it is satire of mankind’s potential for ignorance and mediocrity.
but finally, we are all malvolios condemned to insanity by those ‘sane.’ and the insane thing is that in our insane world, we see how absurd the sane is.