The Seeing Theatre’s current production of Eugene Ionesco’s Rhinoceros, running in repertory with Marsha Norman’s Getting Out at the Lynn Redgrave Theatre, is an inventive if uneven interpretation, well-intentioned and played full-out by a fine cast.
Set in a current and vaguely American present — characters occasionally checking their smart phones or iPads from time to time — Ionesco’s 1959 absurdist, existentialist exploration of will power, conformity and individual choice is a timely thing. Anyone thinking otherwise need only glance at the vagaries of the current election cycle or, even closer to home, simply clock the phone zombies around while navigating the city. On a recent subway ride, this observer noticed nine of ten riders immediately around focused and tethered to their electronic devices, oblivious. Herding instinct indeed.
Brandon Walker, a co-founder of the company who also directed, is cast as Berenger. His unkempt, laid-back and unhurried manner sets the tone, heart and pace for much of the evening, well contrasted by Logan Keeler’s sharp, well-dressed and mannered Jean. Their differing views on life-style, living and philosophy propel the first act, setting up the transformations that ensue, Keeler’s gradual change a convincing surprise.
Ionesco’s script, thick with verbiage and concept, is difficult to pry away from the polemic it slips into time and again, with the result, particularly towards the end as Daisy and Berenger wrestle with their relationship, that some scenes and dialogue are tight and focused, others completely opposite, flat and at times seeming almost underrehearsed.
Despite its shortcomings, however, it’s good to see Ionesco taken head-on, especially with such enthusiasm — apparent hallmarks of this fine actor’s company doing intelligent, socially relevant work.
--René Grayre, July 2016
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