Beastly fun abounds in ‘Rhinoceros’

In a peaceful village in France, something strange is afoot. One by one the inhabitants are transforming into destructive, unthinking wild animals. People are inexplicably turning into rhinoceroses! 

The first main stage of the new year “Rhinoceros” started its seven-show run on Thursday, March 2, after a snowstorm delayed the show’s opening by one night.

The play is directed by Maria Vail, a theater professor at Ramapo who has previously directed “The Importance of Being Earnest,” “Horsedreams,” “Twelfth Night” and “Or What You Will.” The show was written by award winning Romanian-French playwright Eugene Ionesco, known for being one of the foremost figures in French avant-garde theater. 

Walking into this show, patrons knew very little about what to expect other than a few production photos and the fact that it had something to do with a rhinoceros. There was a buzz of curious wonder up until the lights began to dim and the show started.

Audiences were immediately introduced to Berenger, played by Thallys Ribeiro, who started off as an aimless, alienated Everyman who drinks too much and finds little worth in life, except for the beauty of his co-worker, Daisy. Unlike most everyone else in the show, Berenger doesn’t physically turn into a rhinoceros. He has his own moral change throughout the show.

Not only is this play deeply absurd, it also illuminates what it’s like when fascism takes over a town and examines the tension between people as they bicker and quarrel about small everyday issues and struggle with the pressure to conform.

There was a buzz of curious wonder up until the lights began to dim and the show started.

Some stand out performances within the show were the Logician played by Sky Tabora, a junior theater major with a concentration in acting. The Logician was not only comedic and well-dressed, he also demonstrated how easy it is to warp logic, especially when one is an authority figure like he is. 

In addition, Elizabeth LeBoeuf, a freshman music production major who played Daisy, was superb. Daisy is Berenger’s love interest who is initially kind and sensible but eventually grows sympathetic of the rhinoceroses and is at a crossroads whether or not to join them.

The costumes were one of the main highlights of the production. Photo submitted by Mason Murphy

In addition to the wonderful cast and crew, the costumes for this show designed by Kaden Woodward were absolutely amazing. Seeing how all of the colors and fabrics complimented each other on stage was great to see as a viewer. I also really enjoyed the lighting and sound design. During intermission, they played music by Dimitri from Paris, which added to the tone and mood of the show.

The oddly comedic production that had everyday folk turning into rhinoceroses left and right made way for a fun night at the theater. Every time the cast “saw” a rhinoceros, theatergoers would look around the space in awe, and gasp as if they too saw what the characters on stage were seeing. It was a fun mix of story and absurdity.

I believe this show was very well put together and it was a nice break from the hustle and bustle of day to day life. It was nice to sit down for two hours and watch a story develop that not only included character growth, but was meant to be a laughable, silly play to make audiences smile, which I’d say it definitely achieved!

Featured photo submitted by Mason Murphy