WHITE RABBIT RED RABBIT
By Nassim Soleimanpour
Dallas Theater Center
Stage Manager – Emily Burke*
Producer – Joanna Lugo
* Member of Actor’s Equity Association
♦ Member of Diane and Hal Brierley Resident Acting Company
+ Just for May 30; the production features 39 different other actors for the other 39 performances.
Reviewed Performance: 5/30/2018
Reviewed by Ann Saucer, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
The Dallas Theater Center is the recipient of the 2017 Regional Theatre Tony Award. Its Resident Artists are a power house of local talent. White Rabbit Red Rabbit is the most unique play that DTC has produced in its 59-year history.
White Rabbit Red Rabbit’s award-winning playwright, Nassim Soleimanpour, is Iranian, and one of the few things we are told before the performance is that his work has “escaped censorship.” In this extraordinary, indescribably unique work, Mr. Soleimanpour speaks directly to us. The playwright’s unusual production requirements provide for a one-of-a-kind experience.
These are really strange requirements. There is one actor, and she has no idea what the play is about. In case we don’t believe it, the envelope that the script comes in is sealed. She hasn’t read it – hasn’t been allowed to read it -- and has received no direction.
One point, which is cleverly made early on, is that the actor is in this experiment along with us, the audience; we are not to forget this. The lights don’t go down on us, and the actor is not the only performer.
The performance captures the fun of a true extemporaneous experience. Audience members are comically ordered onto the stage, and the actor reads the script and follows the stage directions without knowing what comes next. There is an authentic excitement to the event. It is a scripted series of orders requiring a group of strangers to become part of something unknown. It reminded me of the quote, “You could not step twice into the same river.” (Heraclitus).
In provocative fashion, this play explores questions about group dynamics, and the ways that we communicate and affect each other over time and distance, with the vehicle of theater being the core example. We learn how our participation in his production represents freedom to the playwright, whom I impossibly feel that I somehow know. He’s the optimist who has reasons to be a pessimist and channels it all into a wicked sense of humor. He’s like the kid from the wrong side of the tracks who you know is going to grow up owning a franchise.
The story of the titular rabbits is a beautiful, unforgettable, and humorous portrayal of how past human behavior reverberates in the present.
One of the very many hilarious lines is, “What if the producers are d__kheads?” But, wait, I need to stop there.
At the beginning, Artistic Director Kevin Moriarty himself appears (he’s that cute guy whose feet can only tolerate tennis shoes), and he says, “It is imperative that you not talk about the events tonight. Don’t talk about the events that happened. Say, ‘buy a seat,’ but stay really really quiet about everything else.”
And I’m thinking, “Hey, Kevin, you know that smart and super cute press person that the AT&T Arts Empire has working for it? Yeah, Kaleigh gave me this press kit, in an expensive glossy folder? And John Garcia’s The Column has standards that require that I say something more specific than “buy a seat.”
No, I was too cowardly to question Moriarty. Plus, the divine Liz Mikel, the actor for the May 30 performance, was beautifully towering over Moriarty as he issued these commands.
I think I’m allowed to say this: I adore Liz Mikel. It started when I saw her as Titania, Queen of the Fairies, in the Moriarty/DTC Midsummer. Titania is Shakespeare’s “Mother Nature” role; Shakespeare created the character but it took God four hundred years to cast is properly. If I could bring Shakespeare back to life I would want him to see Liz Mikel as Titania (and Jude Law a Henry V, but that’s another story).
The point being that a one person show with Liz Mikel is divine perfection. Oh, but I can’t give you that as a Moriarty-approved reason to “buy a seat” because there is a different actor for every performance. Because, you know, it’s a surprise.
But, is this reverse psychology? In a world without personal privacy, is it assumed no one can keep a secret? Should you see this play so that you can talk about the thing you’re not supposed to talk about?
We come so close to the actor, with whom we share this journey, that this is an opportunity to fall in love with the talented Dallas actor who shepherds you through it all. I already loved Liz Mikel, but I think new people fell in love with her. In fact, everyone had a really great time – for reasons I’m not supposed to say.
WHITE RABBIT RED RABBIT
Dallas Theater Center
May 30 – July 1, 2018
Dee and Charles Wyly Theatre, Studio Theatre
2400 Flora Street, Dallas, Texas 75201
For information and Tickets call 214 880-0202 or go to www.DallasTheaterCenter.org.