The Seeing Place offers a fresh look at a pair of plays about conformity, presented in rep: Marsha Norman's 1979 postprison drama, Getting Out (directed by Erin Cronican), and Eugene Ionesco's transformative 1959 allegory, Rhinoceros (directed by Brandon Walker).
Average User Rating
3.9 / 5
- 5 star:3
- 4 star:2
- 3 star:1
- 2 star:0
- 1 star:1
A very absorbing and compelling play which makes excellent use of the unique space of the Lynn Redgrave Theater to bring the audience right into the action. The entire cast created individual and memorable persona enveloped in a challenging situation--at first unreal and eventually made to feel believable. It wouldn't have had such an impact without a tour de force performance of the central character and the moral compass of the work by Brandon Walker. The Seeing Place Theater ventures where others would never dare in sharing classics with current relevance like Ioensco's Rhinoceros--an odd animal to begin with and hardly a form you'd expect a human to be transformed into.
Thanks to Erin Cronican and cast for working so valiantly to convey the intense--and often unseen and suppressed--feelings of women who fall on hard times and are condemned to our system of incarceration. Referred to as correctional facilities, what goes on behind those walls can change a person beyond ways anyone could conceive as giving the inmates a new start on life. They often develop neuroses deeper than they had going in--or develop new ones. If they ever get out, they face a daunting future filled with uncertainty, confusion and failure. Theirs is a story that's rarely told--but calls out for empathy when it is. Thanks to Seeing Place for being a voice for those who have none.
The Seeing Theater production of Rhinoceros provided comic insight into issues that are just as contemporary today as when Ionesco wrote in the post-war era. Beastly behavior versus humanistic attitudes, and following the herd no matter what still resonate in this century. I found the actors successfully let the script engage the audience thoughtfully in a way to mull over the absurdity of many events that our society encounters now more than ever. At the same time, the grunts and snorts of actors turned into rhinos made me laugh more than any joke lines. All in all, this production left me both satisfied and disturbed in a way that many plays aspire to with only modest success.
The Seeing Place Theatre’s current production of Getting Out, in repertory with Ionesco’s Rhinoceros in a pairing meant to explore issues of nonconformity, is an intelligent if uneven play in a difficult space, with performances that are so deceptively normal and well absorbed that it’s easy to forget one is watching actors plying their craft onstage.
The evening mostly belongs to the women, however, an unfortunate if ultimately rewarding imbalance in this case, since it’s rare to see a strong cast of female actors taking on issues of identity and survival so convincingly.
Erin Cronican, who directed, also plays Arlene, whose troubled experiences and readjustment to post-prison life move the action, with a controlled pathos that’s never sentimental. A final scene with the fine Jane Kahler touches the heart unexpectedly, a moment notable for its raw, vulnerable honesty and truth. Carla Brandberg’s Mother is unnervingly real and compelling, while Candice Oden as Arlie, Arlene’s delinquent younger self, attacks her role with a strident energy that hopefully will mellow with time and experience.
Of the men, only Steve Carrieri’s moments as the greasy and truly evil Carl stand out, and mention must be made of the truly unconvincing rape which is surprising for its weakness in this otherwise well-staged drama.
Still, thanks are due to Erin Cronican and The Seeing Place Theatre for taking on such a challenging work and raising awareness about a rarely discussed and long-neglected topic which affects women most of all — whether trapped in the penal system themselves, or trying to deal with and nurture those loved ones who are or have been.
The Seeing Place Theatre’s current production of Eugene Ionesco’s Rhinoceros, running in repertory with Marsha Norman’s Getting Out at the Lynn Redgrave Theatre, is an inventive if uneven interpretation, well-intentioned and played full-out by a fine cast.
Set in a current and vaguely American present — characters occasionally checking their smart phones or iPads from time to time — Ionesco’s 1959 absurdist, existentialist exploration of will power, conformity and individual choice is a timely thing. Anyone thinking otherwise need only glance at the vagaries of the current election cycle or, even closer to home, simply clock the phone zombies around while navigating the city. On a recent subway ride, this observer noticed nine of ten riders immediately around focused and tethered to their electronic devices, oblivious. Herding instinct indeed.
Brandon Walker, a co-founder of the company who also directed, is cast as Berenger. His unkempt, laid-back and unhurried manner sets the tone, heart and pace for much of the evening, well contrasted by Logan Keeler’s sharp, well-dressed and mannered Jean. Their differing views on life-style, living and philosophy propel the first act, setting up the transformations that ensue, Keeler’s gradual change a convincing surprise.
Ionesco’s script, thick with verbiage and concept, is difficult to pry away from the polemic it slips into time and again, with the result, particularly towards the end as Daisy and Berenger wrestle with their relationship, that some scenes and dialogue are tight and focused, others completely opposite, flat and at times seeming almost underrehearsed.
Despite its shortcomings, however, it’s good to see Ionesco taken head-on, especially with such enthusiasm — apparent hallmarks of this fine actor’s company doing intelligent, socially relevant work.
Rhinoceros: Okay, while I may not agree with the interpretation of the play, you cannot deny that it was well executed (for the most part...some actors seemed inexperienced or did not present as well as I would have liked. For example I felt Daisy to lack emotion in her lines and the logical philosopher to talk too quickly, but that's forgivable). I felt it was more of a comedic approach than a drop-a-social-truth-bomb-on-some-audience-by-getting-them-to-partake-morally but I enjoyed it. I would definitely recommend the show! I thought you all did a wonderful job and the space is great for absurdist plays!
I wanted to love this production. I really did...and I feel terribly guilty that didn't. The entire cast and crew appeared so dedicated and heartfelt. That being said, it simply doesn't hold up.
The pace is dreadfully slow. The stage combat is embarrassing and the two female principals are the weakest of the ensemble. They simply can't carry the evening with any believability. Neither of them brings the nuance and/or depth of human nature required by Norman's tour de force. The consequence of which, is a great deal of cliche. The supporting ensemble, wonderful as they are, simply cannot compensate for the casting of the leads.
Such a disappointment...A great many pieces are in the right places. This had the potential to be a breathtaking evening. Unfortunately, it ultimately missed the mark.
GETTING OUT was a very interesting play structurally because it shared with the audience scenes from the main character (Arlene's) life at different times--simultaneously. It is not a play for the faint of heart (in terms of structure and adult content) but The Seeing Place Theater pulled it off very successfully. It's a very hopeful play in the sense that, although we don't see the evolution (as with most chronologically and politically correct plays), we do see Arlene's transformation from the kind of dishonest and heartless young woman that she was before and during prison, to a woman who leaves prison with a newfound awareness of what really matters most. In addition, we see her wrestling with the demons from her past and the people whom she once failed and witness her trying to embrace them without the benefit of their forgiveness. Arlene's task, like everyone's, is to learn to meet other people where they are, in their own lives, even if we (ourselves) have "outgrown" them. Erin Cronican's performance was very nuanced and Candice Oden, a relatively new actress to the ensemble, was raw and believably broken. The final scene was very powerful in which the two "versions" of Arlene--the light and the dark--integrate and merge together.
NYCTheatreAddict says: NO 💉 out of 5. ☠ TOTAL POISON
In my 30+ years of coming to see theatre in NYC, this is one of the 10 WORST PRODUCTIONS I HAVE EVER SEEN. Now, please understand, I LOVE this play. Theatre of the Absurd is my passion, and Ionesco is the master writer! The moment that I saw that there was a production of Rhinoceros in NYC, I bought tickets. I didn’t care who was doing it; I didn’t care how long I was on the train!
AND, I LOVE the off off Broadway world. I am often more inspired by what happens in the little closets and warehouses of this city then in the beautiful, air-conditioned Broadway houses. I like to see shows when the budget is small but the passion is high!
I wanted to love this show - - but it wasn’t even close!!! I don’t really want to beat the show up - but from the first word it just felt like bad community theatre. The acting was not believable; they were not creating moments with each other. They were not listening to each other and creating moments. I didn’t see characters up there; they were playing at character. They were so casual at paraphrasing lines that the punch of the script was missing. The humor and pathos of the piece were missing. The principal character looked tired and worn out but lacked the irony and connection to the audience. Hell, I found moments where they were not even memorized.
AND there was no director on hand. The difficult simultaneous dialogue and scenes were NOT focused. The director chose to create the play around us - fine - but it just got buried for no reason in corners of the stage. The BIG transformation TO the rhinoceros just looked improvised - - lacking the choreographed precision and DETAIL that have made this play such a classic.
I just couldn’t take a moment of this show. I wanted to close my eyes and plug up my ears and just read this wonderful play. Please please if you are someone that actually saw the show, please comment below. It was either this dreadful or I am losing my hold on the world. nyctheatreaddict.com