Stage Door: "Rhinoceros," "Orpheus Descending" Ending

There’s some very interesting theater onstage this weekend, from Cincinnati Shakespeare to the Cincinnati Playhouse, but I’m going to point you at productions on two local university stages, in part because they have short runs and will be over in the next few days.—-

Eugene Ionesco’s Rhinoceros is an absurdist work from 1959. It’s a script that epitomizes “theater of the absurd,” works that advance bizarre premises to make their point. In this case, people in a small town are turning into rhinoceroses. The metamorphosis is a metaphor for giving in to conformity. At Northern Kentucky University, professor Daryl Harris has put together a visually arresting staging of this work that I found entertaining although perhaps a bit busy. Very stylized sets and costumes (especially cartoonish wigs in primary colors on every character) make it intriguing to watch, as well as six actors called “mechanicals” who function as a kind of chorus, although then never speak. Rather, they mirror and mimic action onstage. Performances continue through Sunday afternoon in NKU’s Robert and Rosemary Stauss black box theater. Call 895-572-5464 for tickets ($8-$12).

If you prefer more realistic theater, I can warmly recommend the production of Tennessee Williams’ Orpheus Descending at UC’s College-Conservatory of Music. Set in a small Southern town, it’s a story of temptation and repression, a woman in a loveless marriage who is tempted into an affair with a drifting musician. But there’s much more going in, symbolically and literally, as the play is populated with intriguing characters who are wonderfully brought to life by student actors in CCM’s drama program, directed with clear purpose by Ashton Byrum, a graduate student in directing. I was especially taken by the script’s poetic language which enhances the characters’ humanity and emotion in the most affecting way. Performances run through Saturday evening in the Cohen Family Studio Theater. Call 513-556-4183 for free tickets.

Both plays are a half-century old, but I had never seen either one. Don’t miss a chance to catch one of these rarities.

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