White Rabbit, Red Rabbit: Inside the Brain of an Iranian Playwright
by Gwen Walsh
White Rabbit, Red Rabbit is unlike anything you’ve ever seen before, or anything you’ll ever see again. In fact, it’s truly a once-in-a-lifetime event, as the show will never be performed on the same stage by the same actor again.
Written by Nassim Soleimanpour, the one-actor show is a conversation about freedom, time, war, and identity between the author existing in the past, and the audience of the present, rendering the performer an active conduit between the two. The performance at the Oberon Theater on November 15th featured local actress Jen Taschereau, whose amiable demeanor effectively put the audience at ease during a story which was driven by an oscillation between tension and playfulness. Like all performers of White Rabbit, Red Rabbit, Taschereau had never seen the script before the curtain; it was handed to her in a sealed envelope, and the audience experienced the rip of the paper and the turn of the first page along with her. On the center of the minimalistic White Rabbit, Red Rabbit stage stands a table with two glasses of water, one of which may, or may not, contain poison. At the end of the show, the actor is supposed to drink from one.
Soleimanpour introduces himself to the audience via Taschereau, explaining that the year is 2010, he is 29 years old, and living in urban Iran. Throughout the show Soleimanpour sometimes speaks directly to the audience, sometimes to the actor, and sometimes, the line between conversation and introspection is too fine to draw.
White Rabbit, Red Rabbit was written to be performed in an intimate venue, and requires audience participation. Audience members count off to determine how many people are in attendance, which was 26 people on the 15th. This also assigns each person a number which the actor uses to call “volunteers” to the stage.
Taschereau and the volunteers acted out various vignettes throughout the 75-minute-long performance, all of which showed a character of the “other” in situations of disparity. In one scene Taschereau struts around the stage like an ostrich, bringing comedic relief and displaying her true commitment to the act. In another, a row of five audience members impersonate teeth.
This play is not for everyone; it appeals most to the viewer who prefers unique and conceptual works. It does not have the standard theatrical elements which make theater a form of escapism - set, costumes, lighting, or musical score – but does bring the audience to another place, even if that place is inside the brain of an Iranian playwright. For me, some of the metaphors lacked sophistication, but days later, I can’t stop thinking about this play. I keep thinking that maybe the simplicity was intentional, and evokes a juvenile story book nature. As I meditate on it, I like the interaction between the archetypal and unexpected more and more. Love it or hate it, White Rabbit, Red Rabbit will make an impression.
4 out of 5 stars.
White Rabbit, Red Rabbit ran at the Oberon Theater, 2 Arrow St, Cambridge MA from 11/14/16 - 11/16/16. For more information about the play and to see upcoming shows, see www.whiterabbitredrabbit.com.