Chicago Theater Review: WHITE RABBIT, RED RABBIT (Museum of Contemporary Art)

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by Erika Mikkalo on November 4, 2013

in Theater-Chicago


A play is generally defined as “a staged representation of a story – see: DRAMA.” A circle ensues, because drama is explained to be “a piece of writing that tells a story and is performed on a stage.” Nassim Soleimanpour’s White Rabbit, Red Rabbit meets these basic standards – a stage, a story, a script, even an actor, but its adherence to theatrical convention ends there. Director, set designer, costumes – all Fawzia Mirza in White Rabbit, Red Rabbit at MCA Chicago.dismissed. The audience does not know which actor will perform. The actor does not see the script until they are given a closed envelope on the stage: rehearsal is not an option. The actors who perform this play may not perform it again. Sunday evening’s performance at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, was executed by Fawzia Mizra, who plunged into the public cold-reading with vigor and élan, conscripting the audience in roles alternately playful and thought-provoking. The play is co-presented with the Chicago Humanities Festival, an apt addition given this year’s theme, “Animal: What Makes Us Human.” However, do not dismiss this play as an allegorical experiment, but see it as the unique experience that it is.

White Rabbit, Red Rabbit is about rabbits — as well as bears, ostriches, and cheetahs — to the same degree that The Myth of Sisyphus is about a guy with a boulder problem. The hour of combined monologue, story, and interaction investigates authority, autonomy, complicity, and the decision to live, or not to. The viewer’s response may initially start as good-natured tolerance, but as the performance Fawzia Mirza in White Rabbit, Red Rabbit at MCA Chicagoprogresses, the ante is upped, and the audience is increasingly engaged by Soleimanpour’s direct address of the audience, the actor, and the issues raised. The author is Iranian, and wrote this play to go where he could not go at the time, to theaters all over the world. Soleimanpour was denied a visa due to his refusal to perform military service, but was finally permitted to see his work in Australia this February, after the diagnosis of an eye disorder released him from the service obligation. I have long accepted that one of the accomplishments of good writing is to make the reader feel less alone: White Rabbit, Red Rabbit makes it abundantly clear that the author, too, may be rescued from isolation.

Nassim Soleimanpour, Playwright of White Rabbit Red Rabbit. Image courtesy of Aurora Nova Productions.production photos by Nathan Keay
© MCA Chicago
photo of Nassim Soleimanpour
courtesy of Aurora Nova Productions

White Rabbit, Red Rabbit
co-presented with the Chicago Humanities Festival
Edlis Neeson Theater, 220 East Chicago Avenue
Museum of Contemporary Art
scheduled to end on November 9, 2013
for tickets, call phone number 312-397-4010
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