Sunday, September 23, 2018

Rhinoceros—The Shout House—SE Portland

“The Lemmings Are Coming…!”

     This avant-garde, dark comedy was written by Eugene Ionesco (translated by Derek Prouse), produced by Cleaver Enough theatre and directed, as a staged reading, by Valerie Asbell (Founder of Cleaver Enough).  Because of many unforeseen circumstances, this two-three week run of a full production ended up as only one night as a staged reading.  For more information on future plans of the company, go to their site at

     Imagine a circumstance where an incompetent, egomaniacal boob stands up in front of you, spewing out utter nonsense and promising to fulfill this blather if he were King.  Then imagine a circumstance where this nitwit is offered just such a position, and his herds of followers bow to his every whim, and blindly accept every blathering he utters.  Soon they are espousing his “holey” words as truth, even as the world they knew and loved collapses around them.  In the end, he leads them to a cliff and proclaims they should all jump.  In this setting, those beings are called lemmings, in this incarnation of them in this play, they are called Rhinos.

     And, even though, this play was written many years ago, it still has a prophetic ring nowadays, which is, in part, why Asbell chose this show.  In it, we see the beginning of a collapse of a society in which to survive, one must conform.  Berenger (Andrew Hallas) is a bit of a lazy, drunken no-good-nik.  His friend, Jean (Alex Albrecht), on the other hand, is a fastidious neat-nik.  But changes are about to occur.  An illness (snort) overtakes Jean and he begins to change into what the village has been recently over-run by, an ignorant beast.

     In time, the Jean he knew, has evaporated.  Only a co-worker, Dudard (Rian Turner) and Berenger’s girlfriend, Daisy (Emily Smith), seem uninfected, but soon the grunting (snort, snort) of these mindless minions sounds like a sweet lullaby to them.  In the end, he might be the last man standing against this onslaught of ignorance and blind conformity with no self-identity left.  If such a silly event should occur in real life, of course, we’d all be smart enough to see through such nonsense, wouldn’t we?!  (snort, grunt…!)

     It’s unfortunate that this difficult and timely show will not see the light of day at this point because the cast is quite good (others of the townspeople consist of KJ McElrath, Terry Lybecker, Leilani Oleari, Kate Belden, Brent McMorris, Katy Philip, Neil Wade Freer, John Bryant, Troy Sawyer, Athena McElrath, Shaun Patrick Hennessey, and Mark Milner).  This is not an easy show, even for a seasoned production company, to do, so it is daring for a novice theatre to tackle it.  But Ashbell has done a very fine job of casting it and has some clever touches in the interpretation and presentation of it.  They do deserve a chance to shine, so hope they continue to scour the town for an appropriate space to perform and backing for their shows.  Hope to see more of them in the future!

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