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BWW Review: WHITE RABBIT RED RABBIT at Open Stage

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Now through October 24th join in the experience of White Rabbit Red Rabbit

BWW Review: WHITE RABBIT RED RABBIT at Open Stage

White Rabbit Red Rabbit was written in 2010 by Iranian playwright Nassim Soleimanpour. Soleimanpour explains that his writing is a way of experiencing freedom, as he was not permitted to leave Iran for several years. The show explores, in an unique way, questions and ideas about life, death, identity, behavior, conformity, and freedom. As White Rabbit Red Rabbit is a play that really must be experienced, this "review" will be more of an expression of my experience seeing the show as well as some insights into the experience of the actor who performed it at Open Stage on opening night.

Open Stage is presenting White Rabbit Red Rabbit now through October 24. Each performance will feature a different actor. Ticket holders are welcome to attend as many performances as they wish. Additional information about this performance can be found at www.openstagehbg.com.

The opening night performance at Open Stage featured Chris Gibson as the actor. When the audience enters the performance space, the first thing they will note is the lack of a set-the stage is bare except for a table, chair, ladder, spoon, and two glasses of water. There is no pre-show music-nothing that could potentially influence the audience's expectations. The actor is introduced, takes the stage, and receives a sealed envelope containing the script. This is the actor's first time seeing the script-just as the audience experiences the show for the first time, so does the actor. Their performance is, by design, immediate, fresh, and intimate. The actor and audience journey together through the words of the author. They become co-creators-co-conspirators even-with one another and with the author. When asked if he did anything to prepare himself for this performance, Gibson responded, "I honestly didn't prepare at all. It was odd, actually, to have a show where I didn't have some sort of preparation, but I'm comfortable with cold-reading and with public speaking, so I tried to just be clear-headed and ready to meet the piece wherever I was."

The show elicits a number of emotions from the actor and the audience as it progresses. One moment the audience may share a laugh with the actor, while the next moment they find themselves thinking deeply about life. Audiences may experience moments of shock and discomfort, perhaps tempered a bit by the fact that no one experiences those moments alone. Actor Chris Gibson describes his emotions surrounding the performance, "Pre-show I felt the comfortable anxiety I'm used to feeling before any performance. Your body provides you with the adrenaline necessary to prepare yourself for the task at hand. During the show I felt the high of riding that adrenaline, but that high was mixed with a processing of information that is not typical to a rehearsed performance. It's exhilarating to perform in front of a live audience, but to do that while comprehending and expressing the material simultaneously was a new rush for me."

The performance feels a bit like a hybrid of improv and a staged reading-the actor takes the stage not knowing what might happen like in improv; but, unlike improv, the story isn't coming from the performer's own mind, but from the author's mind and through the author's words. Gibson was certainly up to the challenge of this experimental and experiential performance. One of Gibson's strengths for this performance is his ability to make the audience feel comfortable even in the midst of a potentially uncomfortable situation. This type of performance requires the performer to allow themselves to be vulnerable in front of the audience. Gibson was able to draw us into the world created by the author's words, letting us see how the author's words impacted him and made him feel as he read them aloud for the first time. In Gibson's words, "Theatre is, at its core, an ephemeral art, but this playwright has found a way to tap into and utilize that aspect of live theatre so as to literally transcend time and space. This is truly original storytelling. It was so fun to experience this piece along with the audience in real time."

Each performance of White Rabbit Red Rabbit at Open Stage will be an unique experience because it is an experience shaped not only by the author's words, but by the performer's interpretation of those words and the interplay between the audience, actor, and author. Each of the 11 actors taking the stage at Open Stage will approach the text from their own perspective, and the connection experienced between the audience and actor will be different with every performance. White Rabbit Red Rabbit invites audiences and actors to take a leap down the rabbit hole, to consider the possibility of the impossible, to question perception, to be fully present with and for one another, and to discover the secret of the red rabbit.

Visit www.openstagehbg.com to get your tickets for White Rabbit Red Rabbit. This reviewer highly recommends taking the time to see multiple performances and to embrace the multitude of experiences provided by this show at Open Stage.


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From This Author Andrea Stephenson