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Thursday, May 13, 2010

Big Risk, Big Reward With Boxcar's "Rhino"

Posted By on Thu, May 13, 2010 at 3:29 PM

click to enlarge rhino.jpg

Love it or hate it, you probably haven't seen anything quite like it. Boxcar Theatre's Rhino, adapted by Evren Odcikin from Eugène Ionesco's Rhinocéros, takes a well-worn absurdist piece and makes it more absurd than ever.

In Odcikin's ingenious staging, the audience stands alongside the actors, everyone shifting position as the action migrates from one spotlight to the next. The result is about as intimate -- and as bold -- as theater gets.

Ionesco's play, first produced in 1959, is a parable about conformity in general and totalitarianism in particular. Odcikin compresses the action (the show runs under an hour), but the general arc remains the same: one by one, the characters transform into rhinoceroses until a single man remains -- a human anomaly among the rhino herd.

The production alternates between moments of haunting beauty and arch silliness (both of which work perfectly well under the circumstances). Best of all are the transformation scenes, which Odcikin stages as frenetic dances accompanied by El Beh's gorgeous cello.

The only real problem here is that the production never accumulates much of a sense of menace, so it doesn't quite earn its somber, preachy conclusion. But that's a minor quibble: this Rhino is one unique animal, and it absolutely deserves to be seen.

The show runs Wednesdays-Saturdays through May 29; tickets are $15-$25.

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Chris Jensen

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