White Rabbit Red Rabbit is an enjoyable absurdist evening with Amphibian Stage Productions

March 23, 2017

Drama, when it comes to the “experimental” forms of the art, and I am loathe to use the word “experimental” as a general modifier for anything because it lacks imagination and general descriptive value, can be a hit-or-miss proposition when it comes to audience engagement and the longer run of a dramatic enterprise.

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But when it comes to Nassim Soleiampour’s White Rabbit Red Rabbit, it really might be the only word that fits. It’s not really a “play,” as much as it is a cold reading of a scenario involving rabbits, structural oppression, anti-war sentiment, and audience participation by an actor that is new to the stage for every single performance.

To say Xander Berkeley’s performance of White Rabbit Red Rabbit was especially “brilliant,” or incredibly adaptive in this situation would be disingenuous. There are so many unique performances of this work it’s hard to compare, as each actor only attempts it once, as a cold read. But it is fair to say that it was uniquely his, and that he had many amazing reactions to bring to the table with two glasses on it.

In examining all the portions which are hard to describe in the kind of graphic detail that will not spoil the play for future goers, it’s probably most genuine to say that Berkeley connected with the work best when the script delved into the playwright’s personal history, as he finally had a character he could identify with beyond a nebulous White Rabbit, a more determined red one, bears, and crows.

Soleimanpour’s statements about violence, the travel restrictions he experienced for being a conscientious objector in Iran, came across in a way where Berkeley’s journey through the text was an excellent guide for the audience — those of us in our seats the whole time as much as those of us who were called upon to play out roles in Soleimanpour’s absurdist dream, which still plays out well despite some dated connotations.

It will be interesting to see how Sarah Clarke’s Thurs. performance differs, and each subsequent performance that Amphibian Stage Productions has to offer as each actor offers a unique acting style of her own. It’s the kind of work an enthusiast can see twice, or even three times and have a profoundly different experience with each casting of the “lively, global sensation.”

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