Artistic deconstruction is a powerful tool. Subversion of expectations and a focus on context rather than content creates a platform for art to address uncomfortable ideas. Why are you, the audience member, enjoying the violence in a film? The catharsis of a crime? The dark paths of serial killers?
It’s intense questions like these that Interrobang Theatre Project’s production of White Rabbit Red Rabbit asks. After all, what does it say about you, the audience, when you become apathetic in the face of tragedy? White Rabbit Red Rabbit is a brilliant, if somewhat unrefined, show; a unique experience that asks you to address complicated questions.
The opening is simple: an actor is handed a sealed envelope with a script inside. The actor is different each night and has no prior knowledge of the show. Upon opening, the actor then performs the script cover-to-cover without stopping. However, the actor is not the only participant in the show. An empty seat in the audience represents the playwright, whose indirect impact is felt through third person monologues performed by the actor. The final participant is you; you will be assigned a number and you may be asked to come up and participate. Through this platform, White Rabbit Red Rabbit runs through a series of anecdotes which span topics that include life as an immigrant, suicide, conformity, power, and passivity. In the interest of not spoiling the experience, I won’t go into any more detail than that.
The production leverages the surreal nature of the script to great effect. Since no one in the audience truly knows what is going on, tension is high. The audience is engaged and participating throughout, everyone on edge wondering where the performance will take them. Rabbit takes this and runs with it, creating everything from small scenes to social experiments to serve as introductions and examples in the post-scene monologue. These vignettes are interwoven with the actor’s monologues in incredibly satisfying ways. The points being made in the monologues are not only heard, but felt, as the audience has just played an active role in an example of such a concept.
Most importantly though, the show never takes itself too seriously. White Rabbit Red Rabbit is genuinely funny, using well-timed humor to both defuse tension and remove some of the high-art pretension. The humor is a healthy blend of self-critical jabs, absurdist characters, and wholesome wordplay. Just when you think something twisted is about to happen, humor disarms the audience back into a state of relaxation, only to pull the rug out from beneath at a later point.
Certain scenes in the mid section struggle to find solid pacing, and the quality of the production relies heavily on the talent of each night's actor. However, the concept is worth the price of admission itself. You’ll leave the theatre wanting to come back again to see how each night plays out.
Highly Recommended ★★★★
Review by Ryan Moore
White Rabbit Red Rabbit continues at The Den Theatre through Nov 12. More info here.
The Hawk Chicago is included in TheatreInChicago's Review Round-Up.
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