Stacy Stout, left, Christopher Cappelletti, Savada Gilmore and Josh Stevenson star in Kennedy Theatre's "Rhinoceros."
‘Rhinoceros’ a satirical look at mob rule
A classic from the "theater of the absurd" will be finally staged in Hawaii this weekend.
Director Glenn Cannon believes that although Eugene Ionesco's "Rhinoceros" is 70-odd years old, it still reverberates in these times.
Place: Kennedy Theatre, University of Hawaii at Manoa
Time: 8 p.m. Friday, Saturday and April 28 and 29; and 2 p.m. April 30
Tickets: $15; $13 seniors, military and UH faculty/staff; $10 students; $4 UHM students
The premise: City dwellers are changing into the horned animals, for no apparent reason. "It's quite a linear play, not indecipherable," said Cannon, "but it simply speaks volumes about mob hysteria, of eliminating one's own individuality and humanity, and the ability to choose."
"Les Rhinoceros" was written in 1959 and subsequently produced, to great acclaim, in Germany, France and Great Britain. In the United States in 1961, Zero Mostel and Eli Wallach played the lead roles.
Although farcical in nature, Cannon said the play "is essentially a tragedy ... as the transformation of characters into rhinoceros will both amuse and horrify the audience."
The director chose as his leads student actors Christopher Cappelletti as Berenger and Savada Gilmore as John.
Gilmore said his physical and vocal transformations take part in three stages. "It starts with me extremely sick, and it slowly transitions into my trying to subdue feelings when Berenger visits me. ... But there's something seriously wrong with me, where I'll have moments when I'll yelp or make a rhino sound, as I grunt, shiver and shake.
"It's been a wild ride. I just go for it. I mean, who has ever turned into a rhinoceros before? But I'm trying to keep it as real as possible, because it could go cartoony. ... I don't want people to be laughing it up as I change. But I'm trying all sorts of crazy things, as I push myself to the extreme.
"It's a role that could make or break someone, but I'm not going to let it break me."
For CAPPELLETTI, a philosophy major originally from Seattle, "Rhinoceros" is his mainstage debut.
He describes Berenger as an outsider "in the middle of an existential dilemma. He wants to be part of society, but he doesn't know how to relate to people. He's an alcoholic of sorts, and uses it as a way to feel contentment with society. He's a bit of a loser when the play starts.
"It's a delicate balance to do this play well. It's a fine line between naturalism and, at the same time, presenting this absurd subject matter. But it's possible to find its intimate moments, but realizing, at its base, it's a fairly silly idea that itself is not practical."