Skip to main content

Live Review: Eugène Ionesco's "Rhinocerious" at UCLA

Rhinos charged through UCLA’s Royce Hall this past weekend. The venue hosted two showings of Eugène Ionesco 1959 play Rhinoceros performed by the Parisian based company, Théâtre de Paris . The event kicked off a new cultural events series, part of re-branded Center for the Art of Performance at UCLA. The new leader for the center, Kristy Edmunds stood infront of the stage before the start of opening night to introduce the new season.

Ionesco’s work is supposed to be a condemnation of totalitarianism with occasional comic touches. Yet, there are two important challenges any production of this important Eugène Ionesco (1909-1994) play must overcome to hold a successful production. The first is one of striking the right tone. Ionesco’s work is part of the, “Theatre of the Absurd,” movement and any theater company must be able to capture the right mix of humor and darkness the play requires.

The second challenge in the stage is a technical one how does a production company create the tons of Rhinos(so to speak) the work asks for? In most works, the Rhinos of the play, appear largely off stage or in the shadows. In this production by Théâtre de Paris, beautifully detailed Rhino heads linger in the shadows in some scenes. If encountered in a zoo, rhinos can seem lethargic; the ones in stage seem absolutely terrifying. A creepy soundtrack doesn't hurt either.

The play’s main character is Berenger, who works in a publishing house in a French village. Our protagonist is a heavy drinker. His drinking contributes to his sloppy appearance and tardiness from his work.  He is a dissident by chance e to a movement which is turning his fellow citizens into rhinos, literally.   In one of the more dramatic scenes of the play, Berenger’s far more intellectual and successful friend "Jean" turns into a rhino despite his book smarts. One is reminded that intellectualism and resistance to totalitarianism do not necessarily go hand-in-hand. During the Korean War, American POWs subjected to Communist interrogation would often cave into their captors divulging “secrets” and “denouncing” America.  Counter intuitively, the less education and status of a soldier the more likely he was to hold out in face of ever more brutal interrogation. Regardless, the transformation of Jean into a Rhino, is one of the tougher performances an actor can be asked to accomplish. Stage veteran Hugues Quester’s who plays Jean”gives all he can in a scene in which he transitions from man into megafauna.  Berenger robbed of his friend, struggles on and the play eventually ends with him facing the world alone.

Ionesco had totalitarianism in mind but, there are no demagogues leading people here, there is only the slow spread of an ugly idea and the suppression of morality at an individual level. Both intellectuals and the common folk can be seduced by totalitarianism. Thus, Ionesco places the individual at the heart of the struggle against fascism in its many forms. Thus is a play with very libertarian undertones.

Ionesco personally witnessed the rise of Fascism in Romania 1930s, an oil rich state which sided with Hitler in the Second World War.  Ioneso, like the fictional "Berenger" briefly worked as the proof reader of a publisher of law books. Before switching careers and becoming a playwright and author. Rhinoceros was originally a short story which Ionesco remolded as a three act play.

The tour will continue with tour dates in what Kristy Edmunds dubbed “smart cities” including Berkeley at Cal Performances on September 27, 28, and 29 (matinee), and in Ann Arbor at University Musical Society (UMS) on October 11, 12, and 13. The play is performed in French with helpful supertitles in English.

The opening night is also the beginning of an ambitious schedule for the Center for the Art of Performance in the coming months. UCLA will host a wide range dance, music,  theater events in the coming months which appeal to wider range of tastes.  Upcoming events will range broadly from the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra to Middle Eastern vibes of Yemen Blues at Royce Hall. Finally, Rhinoceros will not be the only pachyderm themed theater offering this season. An intriguing play titled Ganesh Versus the Third Reich will appear on Jan 24, 2013 at the Freud Playhouse.

About the Author 

Joseph Hammond is a freelance journalist who has been published in California, Estonia, Egypt, and Jordan. He enjoys learning languages and is pretty good at table football. He’s a big fan of boxing, the Los Angeles Dodgers, and FC Barçelona. 

Popular posts from this blog

2017 EXXXOTICA Expo Dates and Locations Announced

Riding high off its most successful event to date in Edison, New Jersey, the EXXXOTICA Expo presented by MyFreeCams is already looking forward to 2017 with a trio of events planned around the country. In addition to its longstanding shows in Chicago and New Jersey, the show’s producers are pinning a new city on its map — Denver, Colorado for EXXXOTICA Mile High.

EXXXOTICA’s debut in the Rocky Mountains has been in the works for years, and event organizers couldn’t be more excited to bring the show to Denver. The 2017 show schedule kicks off in grand style with EXXXOTICA Mile High, March 31 through April 2, 2017. The show will be taking place as a full hotel takeover at the Crowne Plaza Denver Airport Convention Center.
With nearly 100,000 square feet of exhibition and breakout space, EXXXOTICA Mile High will not only feature hundreds of exhibitors and the top stars in adult, as well as seminars and performers, but the hotel will be transformed into the hottest hotel in the country wi…

BEAUTIFUL RIGHTS Gives Women’s Rights Some Real Lip Service

Beautiful Rights is here to give women’s rights some real lip service. This new, cause-driven makeup initiative, founded by renowned makeup artist and product developer, Kristen Therese Leonard, was created to ensure that women’s rights continue to be given their share of voice in our country’s future.

As we enter into 2017, real concerns regarding women’s rights are upon us. Beautiful Rights was created to remind every woman to speak up, and that the responsibility lies within each of us to protect the rights we’ve fought so hard to acquire.

Beautiful Rights will promote women’s rights by donating 20% of all sales (not profits) to organizations that support our causes, such as Planned Parenthood, the ACLU, Emily’s List, Lambda Legal and Legal Momentum. The 20% contribution is set as a reminder of the fact that women in the U.S. still get paid 20% less than men for doing the same work.

Not only will Beautiful Rights fuel great initiatives, it will also provide women with top-of-line…

Sword Art Online the Movie -Ordinal Scale Releases March 9, 2017

Aniplex of America Inc. announced today that the nationwide release of the highly anticipated feature film Sword Art Online the Movie -Ordinal Scale- will take place on March 9, 2017. Details on theater locations and tickets for the nationwide release will be announced at a later date on the official homepage ( Sword Art Online the Movie -Ordinal Scale- will be distributed by ELEVEN ARTS in the original Japanese audio with English subtitles.
About Sword Art Online: The animated TV series Sword Art Online is based on author Reki Kawahara’s light novel in which the protagonist Kirito fights to survive in the mysterious next-gen VRMMORPG called “Sword Art Online.”
Since the first volume of the novel was published in April 2009, the series has proved extremely popular, with cumulative sales exceeding 12.5 million units in Japan and 19 million worldwide, spawning two TV anime adaptations, video games, comic books, and merchandise.
Story of Sword Art Online the Movie -O…