Classical Theatre of Harlem
Cast as: Mrs. Beouff
OBIE AWARD WINNER
Rhinoceros is a captivating, critically acclaimed commentary on what is absurd about human nature. Like the abstract artists of the early 20th century, Ionesco abstracts reality to comedic and terrifying effect. His unusual language, stylized structure, and grand symbolism define the writer’s place as the premiere playwright in what is known as the Theater of the Absurd.
The play begins in a very ordinary setting with very ordinary characters. We meet Berenger and Jean, two friends whose outward appearance and inner identities contrast greatly. Berenger looks messy with an untucked shirt and unkempt hair. He drinks every day, he cannot make appointments on time, and he feels as if he is drowning in the chaos of life itself. Jean, by contrast, is immaculately well dressed with combed hair and shiny shoes. He prides himself on the order and structure that he maintains. As they sit at a cafe in the town square, Jean attempts to help Berenger get his act together. He suggests that his friend visit museums to culture himself and notes that Berenger must make an effort to improve his situation. Berenger, somewhat depressed, does not believe he can make such improvements but says he will try.
While Jean and Berenger discuss life and its challenges, several other conversations proceed around them. These conversations are banal and evoke the sense of “everyday life” in any town. The characters themselves represent the stock townspeople: the Waitress of the cafe, the Proprietor of the restaurant and his wife, as well as a housewife with a cat. Of all the other characters in this act, the two who deserve most note are the Logician and the Old Gentleman. Their conversation, at least, revolves around logic, one of the central themes of the play. They discuss how many paws a cat has and deduce that any thing with four paws is a cat, which leads the audience to start noticing the general pattern of false reasoning within this town—and in the human experience overall.