BWW Review: RHINOCEROS at Now & Then Creative Company
Seldom do we as theatre patrons encounter a piece that touches on so many aspects of who we are and why we make decisions. In the climate of 2018, we have difficulty comprehending the dealings of others whom may not be like minded. Rhinoceros at Now & Then Creative Company did a more than fantastic job of helping us question ourselves, without the help of a logician no less.
Under the direction of Cody Goulder, Rhinoceros pulled us into a fantastical world suddenly overrun by Rhinos after most animals had gone extinct. The normal banter of a local grocery is suddenly thwarted when a Rhino tramples by. The characters scramble around the question of why it appeared, and instead become stuck on trivial questions such as what color it was, how many horns it had, or if it was Asiatic or African. The show continues on, gracefully straying away from the slurry of random pachyderms, to a more thought-provoking notion of the inevitability of change and the effects on those who do and do not embrace it.
At the play's inception, the cast's comedic timing is put on display with a few "blink and you'll miss it" quips and the demolition of the fourth wall. This was placed in good accompaniment to Christine Conger's (Jean) and Devon Mahon's (Berenger) argument driven and judgment fueled friendship. The portrayals of Christine's seemingly on top of things behavior versus Devon's almost fly-by-night like demeanor was a refreshing contrast. However, the onstage chemistry between Devon and Erika Lee Garcia (Daisy) was a great sight to watch. Erika took an approach of "together by circumstance," which paired with Devon's manic devotion to her, brought the decline of 25 years of marriage in just a few minutes. Megan Mattox's Botard brought about the true characteristics of a blind skeptic, denying the likelihood of the strange phenomena, and chalking it up to media lies and propaganda, even after proof is put in front of his face.
With five movable walls, set pieces with purpose, and just the right amount of lighting, this show did not disappoint. The beginning of this opening night performance did feel like it took a bit to ramp up and start moving. However, due to the content, the pacing of the show as a whole was just right, giving the audience a chance to drink in the context, while allowing the actors to dexterously move throughout. I found myself wishing I didn't read about the show's background beforehand, finding the World War II knowledge and context of the time period to be things I searched for in the plot, soon enough finding it not to hold as much importance as I assumed it would. In fact, because of the subjects and dialog brought forward during the production, I found it an extremely relevant piece for today.
The entire cast of Rhinoceros, through comedic tragedy, brought about a questioning of your innermost liberal or conservative. I found myself siding with Berenger, finding him relatable and likeminded. I pitied his state of alcoholism and wanted to help him out of his need for numbness as his friend Jean wanted. However, his decaying sanity made me wonder what side I was on. More enthralled by the idea of changing into some unfamiliar creature, we were distracted from the simple notion of change, inescapably becoming the proverbial, and in this shows case literal, last man on earth. Being part of this group of folks left behind by the times, it is then that you question your role as part of transformation or stagnation. You wonder if you yourself are a Rhino or another ugly person alone in their apartment. This must-see production of Rhinoceros at Now & Then Creative Company runs from November 2-18 at the Metropolitan Arts Institute. Go to https://www.nowandthencc.com/upcoming for ticket info.
Production photos by Laura Durant
From Left to Right (Erika Lee Garcia, Alex Kass, Devon Mahon)