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Review: Rhinoceros (Organic Theater)

By Chicagotheaterbeat @chitheaterbeat

Review: Rhinoceros (Organic Theater)   

Written by Eugene Ionesco 
Adapted and Directed by Alexander Gelman
Greenhouse Theater, 2257 N. Lincoln (map)
thru June 24  |  tickets: $18   |  more info
Check for half-price tickets 
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Rhinos take over Greenhouse Theater


Review: Rhinoceros (Organic Theater)


Organic Theater presents



Review by J.H. Palmer

Organic Theater Company’s adaptation of Rhinoceros opens with appropriately French-like music in the air, and we are introduced to Jean (Joel Huff) and Berenger (Ryan Massie) at a café where the conversations are absurd and logical at the same time. “The superior man is the one who fulfills his duty,” Jean says. At the next table The Logician (Richard L. Gross) is discussing syllogisms with The Gentleman (Colin Jackson, who doubles as M. Papillon). “I’m going to explain to you what a syllogism is,” The Logician says. “Here is an example of a syllogism. The cat has four paws. Isidore and Fricot both have four paws. Therefore Isidore and Fricot are cats.”

Review: Rhinoceros (Organic Theater)
Serving the café patrons is a Waitress (Rachel Bonacquisti, who doubles as Grocer’s Wife) and the Café Proprietor (Anthony Perrella, Jr., who also plays Botard and Jean the Neighbor). The Waitress whips around the café, taking orders and delivering them, while the concurrent conversations overlap, one concerning logic and the other focused on will, coming to an absurdist crescendo before the first rhinoceros is spotted – or rather, heard. M. Anthony Reimer’s sound design provides aural cues that pachyderms are on the loose, that emergency response workers are on their way, among other situations. The costume design is equally captivating; Caitlin Murphy’s designs are delightful – I wanted to take home at least three pairs of shoes at the close of the play.

The response to a rhinoceros on the loose is appropriately odd for an absurdist play. “A rhinoceros, loose in the town, and you don’t bat an eyelid about it?” one character asks. “I’ve been tired for years, its exhausting carrying around the weight of my own body,” Berenger says. Playwright Eugene Ionesco purposely injects humor into the piece with dialog like: “Have you seen Ionesco’s plays? There’s one playing right now, take advantage of it.”

The Logician and the Gentleman continue to expound on the cat example: “A cat with no paws at all wouldn’t be able to catch mice!” The Gentleman says. “You’re making real progress with logic.” As it happens, there’s an actual cat in the play (well, an actual stuffed cat) who belongs to The Housewife (Philena Gilmer, who doubles as Mrs. Boeuf), and is crushed by a stampeding rhinoceros. It shows up as a news item in the local paper under the “squashed cats” column, a joke that only makes sense to French people who read the “squashed dogs column,” which is an actual column that covers incidental odd news items. (I only know this because I took French in high school, had “Rhinoceros” as required reading and the instructor, M. Joissant, explained this tidbit to the class.)

The rhinoceros, I also learned in high school, represents the rise of Nazism, and one by one it affects people like a virus. Jean himself is not impervious to the menace, and in a scene set in his bedroom we see an impressive transformation that starts with hints of what’s to come in lines like: “I only have confidence in veterinary surgeons.” “It’s not that I hate people, it’s just that I’m indifferent to them.” I can safely say I’ve never seen an actor become a rhinoceros, and Jean’s transformation is convincing and slightly terrifying.

The rhinoceroses continue to plague the town, and in the final scene it seems that everyone has succumbed to the peril, wearing masks that are at once eerie and delightful. This is a fast paced production, and will leave your mind slightly dented. In a political climate that fosters wing nuts of all kinds, this piece will make you scratch your head and think for a while after you’ve left the theater.


Rating: ★★★



Rhinoceros continues through June 24th at Greenhouse Theater Center, 2257 N. Lincoln (map), with performances Wednesdays-Fridays at 8pm, Saturdays 3pm and 8pm, Sundays 8pm.  Tickets are $18 ($30 for both “Rhinoceros” and “Bartleby”, which are running concurrently). Tickets are available by phone (773.404.7336) or online through (check for half-price tickets at More information at  (Running time: 90 minutes with no intermission)

Review: Rhinoceros (Organic Theater)

Photos by Matthew Knox


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