Home MOVIES Evaluation: Pointless Theatre’s staging of Ionesco’s ‘Rhinoceros,’ whereas flawed, throws its weight...

Evaluation: Pointless Theatre’s staging of Ionesco’s ‘Rhinoceros,’ whereas flawed, throws its weight round

At its greatest, director Frank Labovitz’s staging of French dramatist Eugène Ionesco’s 1959 absurdist traditional makes us expertise a comparable shock of connection and recognition. In our hyperpartisan period, the play’s reflections on conformism, groupthink and ideological contagion pack a wallop like a 5,000-pound pachyderm’s stomp. (The Romanian-born Ionesco is claimed to have written “Rhinoceros” as a response to the unfold of fascism within the early twentieth century.) And Labovitz’s authentic translation of the script reveals how wealthy the play is in comedy, suspense and cathartic existential terror.

Sadly, the performances are uneven, and Labovitz has sanctioned performing selections that may be unadvisedly clowning and hammy. Additionally problematic are bursts of stylized motion that look self-conscious and really feel distracting: an alarmed character out of the blue huddling precariously on the again of a chaise, for example. Pointless favors visible boldness, however right here a extra understated and even (to the extent attainable) naturalistic strategy might need thrown the story’s humor and nightmarishness into larger reduction, and thus higher served the play.

Offering the throughline is Berenger (Mary Myers), an underachiever in a small city who pines after his acquaintance Daisy (Momo Nakamura) and tolerates cruel needling by his pal Jean (Stephen Murray). When townspeople inexplicably start turning into rhinos, Berenger finds his fellow human survivors reacting in dumbfounding methods, from denial to calm acceptance to envy.

Myers paints Berenger in overemphatic strokes, using a too-fidgety physicality and expressions that verge on mugging. Murray does higher by Jean, exuding apt superciliousness even in posture and mannerism. Melissa Carter ably channels Mrs. Boeuf, and Nicholas Temple is poised and nuanced as Berenger’s co-worker Dudard. In probably the most fulfilling efficiency, Joshua Williams is hilarious as Papillion, an workplace supervisor who fixates on paperwork and productiveness as bipeds flip into quadrupeds proper and left.

Pointless is thought for its puppetry, and this manufacturing doesn’t disappoint, with three-dimensional and shadow puppets popping up eerily — a flavorful distinction to the intentionally quotidian settings, akin to a picturesque city sq.. (Jess Rassp is puppet designer, and James Raymond, scenic designer.) Additional supporting the story’s unsettling twists is AJ Johnson’s sound design, with its large-mammal stampeding and grunting noises.

Regardless of its flaws, the Pointless manufacturing is a welcome reminder of this traditional play’s zest and energy. Particularly at a time of polarized politics and entrenched suspicion, one wonders why herds of “Rhinoceros” aren’t charging throughout our levels.

Rhinoceros by Eugène Ionesco. Translated and directed by Frank Labovitz; lighting design, Hailey Laroe; costumes, Kitt Crescenzo; composer, Tommy Sherrod. With Lee Gerstenhaber, Nick Martin, Niusha Nawab and Madeline Key. 2 hours quarter-hour. $39. By means of April 24 at Universalist Nationwide Memorial Church, 1810 sixteenth St. NW. pointlesstheatre.com.

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