Local theater specialist Ric Averill will direct Lawrence theater yet again, with a University Theatre production of “Rhinoceros” this weekend and next week. The Broadway production of the play received a Tony Award in 1961.
“Rhinoceros” highlights government systems including totalitarianism, xenophobia and fascism. Averill said there is no better time for this play, as the United States is currently experiencing these issues, although playwright Eugène Ionesco wrote the work in reaction to the rise of fascism in Romania.
“Rhinoceros was a classic of the absurdist theater movement that was written in the 1950s,” Averill said.
The play takes place in France and follows a character named Berenger, who is a bit of a mess, as displayed through his heavy drinking. His friend meets him at a cafe to tell him to clean up his act. During their chat, a rhinoceros tramples through the town.
As the play progresses, everyone except Berenger turns into a rhinoceros, which Averill said is a metaphor for ideological conformity. In other words, Berenger is the last man standing.
The show is also a metaphor for the Trump administration, according to Averill. The main actor even wears a “Make America Great Again” hat for the entirety of the show.
“It’s comedic, political and revolutionary,” Averill said.
The production is estimated to be just over an hour long with no intermission.
Senior Josh Philoon plays Berenger. He said the show is thought-provoking and was created for the purpose of making the audience think.
“Everything meshes with our current political climate,” Philoon said. “Here we are, half a century later, grappling with these problems again.”
Thanks to theater professor Mark Reaney, the production includes contemporary digital and visual imagery. Media such as political cartoons, tweets and podcasts will be featured throughout the performance.
Averill said the play upholds a very smart type of humor.
“It’s droll humor,” Averill said. “It’s smart humor — it’s smart comedy.”
Showtimes include Friday at noon and Sunday at 2:30 p.m., as well as Saturday and Nov. 14 to 16 at 7:30 p.m. in Murphy Hall's intimate William Inge Memorial Theater.
Tickets are available at the Murphy Hall box office, online at www.kutheatre.com, and over the phone at both the Lied Center and the University Theatre.