The Placer Performance Calendar


Great Local Shows - Theatrical Reviews

Title Rhinoceros
Organization Falcon's Eye Theatre
Date(s) of show November 6-22, 2015
Reviewer Letha Dawson

The mere fact that David Harris dared to stage Rhinoceros at the Harris Center tells one that here we have a brave director, who respects and trusts theatre goers in the region to be appreciative of an adult theme, and a director who trusts the student actors of Folsom Lake College to do justice to this work of art.  Mr. Harris’s trust in his actors was well-founded, for they bring to the stage Ionesco’s drama in full force.  Rhinoceros is a play for thinking adults of today as it was for post-WWII war-weary adults.  The message as delivered by this excellent band of actors last night states ferociously:  beware of “isms,” whatever they purport.  Keep your common sense, your humanity, your love of your friends alive and active.  Don’t fall for what the crowd is saying; examine the message for its true content.  So with humorous horror, just as one would watch something awful and not be able to take one’s eyes from the scene, Rhinoceros played out before the stunned and sometimes uncomfortable laughter of the audience as they watched an awful thing happening to ordinary citizens.  The staging, sound and lighting, and especially the acting—all were superb. 

Ionesco, the playwright, created a shadow dialogue in his play, delivered by academic characters and intellectuals who analyze away reality, a shadow dialogue which enhances the conversation between the main character, Berenger and his friends.   It’s very clever.  “How many horns does a rhinoceros have” becomes the question analyzed ad infinitum, instead of “What is a rhinoceros, a very dangerous animal, doing here at the café, threatening our very lives?”  In past times the rhinoceros could have stood for any of the evils man faced.  The rhinoceros is just as relevant today.  What dangerous threats to civilization are stamping their hooves and stampeding closer?  How many citizens will join the stampede?  How many will stand fast and expose them for what they are? 

In the performance at the Harris Center last night, you have the conformist, Jean, so proud of how he looks, his strength, his polished shoes, played by Bert Andersson, as the first citizen to be duped.  His metamorphosis from human to rhinoceros was at turns funny and frightening.  You have to see this on stage to understand how riveting it is.  The ingenious lighting, throwing green and orange glares on his skin as he changes, works to pin one to the seat.  The housewife, played by Afton Parker, running around hysterically with her bloodied cat clutched to her bosom, adds to the unreal disintegration of community sanity.  The rhinos thundering, threatening, pounding the ground, getting closer as their numbers grow, scared me.  Their minimalist costumes worked like magic, letting the former human show, while growing a grotesque superstructure.   

Berenger, played by Wesley A. Murphy, engaged, demanded sympathy, begged for protection, for love, for understanding.  Berenger, getting none of the balms he desperately needed, descended farther and farther into despair.  What an Elly-winning performance Wesley delivered.  On stage for two-and-a-half hours, all the while anxiety-ridden by what he sees happening around him, Wesley Murphy gave every ounce of his energy and filled this role as though Ionesco wrote it for him.  How will he repeat these draining performances night after night?  A real actor, he must be, trained in Folsom.  Hats off!

There were many other outstanding performances, Dudard, played by Thomas Dean, Botard, played by Amir Sharafeh, and Daisy, played by Britt Poole, all were so normal in the beginning, and then slowly and surely, they get compromised, confused, and co-opted, finally growing horns.  

If you care about what’s afoot in the world around you, if you want to be on the lookout for dangerous animals in our own time, don’t miss this production of Rhinoceros

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