How A Rhinoceros Might Be a Reminder to Start Living

Les morts sont plus nombreux que les vivants. Leur nombre augmente.
Les vivants sont rares

“There are more dead people than living. And their numbers are increasing. The living are getting rarer.”

-IONESCO, Rhinoceros

It was a weekend chock full of theatre. From a brilliant musical parody of Silence of the Lambs (that anyone in L.A. should run out to see if they’re able) to an ambitious but somewhat underwhelming production of Rhinoceros,  it was quite a spread.

While this Ionesco absurdist turn is classically difficult to dramatize, the meat of the play is one of my favorites to unravel. It explores the negative consequences of groupthink and implications of a society ruled by fear, but marries these ideas with the impossible, the zany, and yes, the absurd.

The central character Bérenger, a mild-mannered self-deprecating everyman, struggles as he watches all the people in his small town turn into Rhinos. (Yes, really.) Upon his writing, the rhinos were meant to signal the communist and fascist movements that exploded in the years before World War II. But today the play reads as a clever exploration of a number of other movements including the far-right Tea Party, Scientology, and other niche groups.  The addicting domino-effect of adopting the traits and mindsets of those around you to fit in or to escape judgement serves as a stark reminder to maintain one’s personal truths. Even when the tide has swept away those around you, hold tight. One person can be enough stand against the masses.

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