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'Rhinoceros' still relevant

By Martin VanBuren III
On September 27, 2017

The sound of a rhinoceros stempede divers the attention of Tess Webber (Dasiy) and Garret Robin (Berenger). Photo by Martin VanBuren III.

If you left Castleton’s performance of Eugène Ionesco’s Rhinoceros and you were very confused, I don’t blame you. I was too. But then I went and saw the show again, and it made more sense the second time around. However, I suppose another main factor that caused confusion was the amount of phone usage and talking from audience members. Really making us proud, Castleton.

In case you didn’t know, the show was written in 1959 and can be considered a response to the upsurge of Nazism and Fascism post WWII, which explains the explicit themes of conformity in the show. Sure, it was a bit confusing, but the show wasn’t without its humorous moments.

Such as the scene when the Logician, played by Thomas Tifft, is explaining the correct way to pose the question they are seeking an answer for. Starting with Berenger, played by Garret Robin who executes perfect comedic timing alongside his fellow cast members as they play musical chairs with themselves around the stage. You had to see it to know what I’m talking about.

One thing that caught my attention during the performance was one line that was always followed by the same action. “I will not stand for this,” was always followed by the individual standing up as they voiced their line. A few audience members caught onto it pretty quick and snickered through the whole show.

Laughter erupted following the “flattening” of a cat and the reveal (which was pulled from offstage from a very clever and covert position). Poor puss.

A dust cloud forms after a rhinoceros meets a wooden staircase. Photo by Martin VanBuren III.

Let’s talk about acting for a moment.

I should start off by saying that I have never seen Nathaniel Hinson, who played Jean, perform in Casella before, but I can say he’s no rookie. His performance of Jean was fierce and to the point; and there were moments where I said to myself “He could definitely do a Ted Talk,” just based off of his stage presence.

Garret Robin, who portrayed Bérenger, knocked my socks off as usual, and I have to note that his adaptability in the past few shows that I have seen him in has impressed me the most. I’ve seen him portray Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet, Richard in Fuddy Meers, and now Bérenger. Three characters that differ in character traits and performances.

While we’re on the subject of adaptability, I would also like to note that the last time I saw Tess Webber on stage as a main character was for her portrayal of Jessica in Hand to God, and that was for a younger role in comparison. Hats off to you.

There were a few things that may have flown under the audience’s radar if they weren’t playing close attention to detail. For starters, a considerable number of cast members were wearing some sort of green in the show, which meshes perfectly to the sea of green light that illuminates the second half of the show. In regards to hair, Kit Hudson, who portrayed Dudard, had hair that swept upwards like a -- you guessed it -- Rhinoceros horn.

One of the coolest aspects of the show was the integration of a second perspective (arguably the Rhinoceros’ perspective) through the eyes of a camera lens. It’s definitely in my top 5 for most innovative methods used during a Castleton performance. Another that may land itself on the same list was the utilization of Rhinoceros paper and light puppets/projections used near the conclusion of the show.

Garret Robin (Berenger) attempts to channel his innter rhinoceros. Photo by Martin VanBuren III. 

Upon my first screening of the show during their final dress rehearsal, I was given a little inside information regarding the sound design of the show, which was structured around two vital pieces of sound: the Rhinoceros’ trumpeting, and the stampede/walking. When I first heard them, I assumed the trumpeting and stampeding were both sound clips taken from somewhere else. But after a little bird, *cough cough* Sound Designer Matt Eckler, let me know that the sounds were all made at home with a trumpet and a drum set, I was floored. Literally. You can ask Matt; I sat on the ground for a good chunk of the rehearsal.

With all of this being said, the show had its pitfalls. For starters, actors that I have seen perform in previous performances have not adapted or changed their style or delivery of acting. I saw characters being portrayed the same way as previous performances. This left me feeling a little uninterested at times, and I knew exactly what to expect from some people.

In addition to this, the quality of the performances from the supporting cast were lackluster in comparison to the main characters.

Some of you killed it. Others...might just need some more stage time. Maybe you were just as confused as the audience.

I’ll see you at the next show. Blast my socks off.

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