Concordia’s Liberal Arts Theatre Society is putting on two productions this year taken from the theatre of the absurd, one from Samuel Beckett and one from Eugène Ionesco.
Play, written by Beckett in 1963, is a short one act show in which the three characters―a man and two women―are encased in funeral urns, with only their heads showing. One woman is the man’s wife and the other is his mistress and the plot centres on their obsession over the man’s affair.
However, the theatre society’s main attraction is Ionesco’s 1959 creation, Rhinoceros.
The play deals with the inhabitants of a small French town who, for unknown reasons, begin turning into rhinoceroses. Berenger, the play’s protagonist played by the alluring Steve Cutler, is the only one who seems to not be afflicted by this strange epidemic.
The themes in Rhinoceros revolve around the shift from a quaint society to a new fascist, industrialized world. The design of the play draws heavily from the Dadaist manifesto, which arrived during the First World War and ridiculed the modern world as meaningless. The propaganda generated by the war led people to question their own systems of morality and search for meaning in a world where the written word was not legitimized.
In both Ionesco’s and Beckett’s plays, words become distorted, ignored and are used to rationalize philosophical concepts which are completely irrational. This is the bizarre disorder in which the characters in Rhinoceros find themselves, and where the structure of the fascist regime offers a kind of simplicity in the characters’ quest for solace.
The play will feature visuals that amplify the chaos of this conventional society being overwhelmed by fascist values. Surrealist imagery will give way to a futurist art aesthetic, representing the power of the machine and the rapidly progressing industrial society. The sudden rhinoceros uprising reveals the ugliness of what has transpired.
Anthony Kennedy, the artistic director of the production, feels the play has benefited from its chosen venue. “Rather than performing our plays in a traditional theatre, we had our direction and design influenced from the ground up by the space we were working in,” he said. “Our brilliant designer Danielle Fagen chose Les Ateliers Jean-Brillant for its beautiful industrial aesthetic and rich history.”
This former rail warehouse has been re-appropriated into a gallery, an artist workshop and now a performance setting. “It’s been a great pleasure doing our own little part in the revitalization of this beautiful space,” said Kennedy.
The production will also be accompanied by an exhibition of art influenced by the plays. There will be 18 artists featured and the show is being curated by Katrina Caruso.
Rhinoceros and Play run from March 1 to 4 at Les Ateliers Jean-Brillant (3520 St-Jacques). Doors open at 7 p.m. for the exhibit; curtain at 8 p.m. Check out the Facebook event at http://on.fb.me/AvCmzq.