Sunday, December 09, 2007

REV: Rhinoceros

Well, i made a run to Austin Friday to see the Transit Theatre Troupe's production of Rhinoceros on a dorm square at St. Edward's University. While not strictly a student group, it's no surprise that a wonderful Ionesco could be presented at St. Ed's where theatre has something of a thriving and dynamic presence for a Texas school. I've blogged before about wonderful things seen there, and this is no exception, even if it's my first taste of Transit's work.

Of course, i knew someone in the play, the lovely Annie Bond, who adroitly tackled Daisy, the last of the finally-succumbing holdouts in this WWII allegory. It's rare enough to see Ionesco anywhere these days, rarer yet to see it performed well. Led by the exceptional work of the final three characters -- Annie, Patrick Byers as Dutard, and someone i can't identify as Berenger -- the crew put on a sprightly piece, launching the absurdity of the piece into something of a tailgate party -- all waiting, drinking, misanthroping, and stretching the limits of logic, while waiting for the running of the bulls. There was so much self-satisfied humor among the actors that it was hard not to maintain a constant smile. The constant cross-chatter simply added to the division of attention as we traveled from one silliness to another.

I had to go back and do some reading to remember the actual allegorical reasoning -- not quite what i picked out from the play itself, but to remind anyway that the Rhinos represent the surge of Nazism and Fascism through a complacent Europe, while folks argued the merits of a one-horned or two-horned attacker. What i can't find anywhere in the various online cliff notes and diatribes is what i found to be an ultimate irony -- that the single apathetic character is the one that remains the sole representative of individualism (ostensibly the US, who sat back and watched, but finally had to step in and retrieve independence for the swallowed nations of Europe).

In any case, Annie was delightful as the naive and a bit combative Daisy (which i take to be Britain). She reminds me a little of our Lilian Beaudoin in that i see her as such a dignified and elegant character, that when she steps outside that rope she becomes such a different character that i lose track of who she is (which i define as marks of the finest actors). The blustery, and ultimately rash in defiance Dutard was a perfect match for Patrick Byers, come to find out also from Wimberley (but why am i surprised). He was so convincing in his faux suavity that i could hardly not laugh just seeing him enter the scene.

The guy who played Berenger was also a seamless match for Berenger, coming across perfectly nonchalant about the goings-on before evolving into a paranoid as the metamorphoses occurred in front of him (literally, in the case of his drinking bud Jean).

I fault no one in the piece, all were well-made parts for fine actors, and i wish i knew each by their names, but along with the absurdity of the play we were left with no way to identify the characters, no programs, something that in a way i quite like. Nevertheless i feel the need to mention one other -- Jon Martin as several characters -- who reminds me much of our Charles Bryant in that he can take a rote character and push it just enough to elicit guffaws without losing either his identity or our sympathy as a real human being. And while i never want to accuse an elegant actor of scene-stealing, Jon is one of those who immediately grabs your attention when he appears onstage. As the steps-sweeeper and the old man, Jon made two wonderful people out of few words.

I'll surely be looking for more opportunities to see these folks work.


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