Theater doesn’t get much purer than this show: For each night of an 18-performance run, it’s a different actor reading a script that he or she has never seen prior to hitting the nearly bare stage. Each performance is literally a show no one can see ever again.
The material is exceptional, as well: Iranian playwright Nassim Soleimanpour has his actor present a series of variations on stories mostly about animal characters (anthropomorphized and not), with themes exploring isolation, conformity, authoritarianism and group-think. There’s also some clever audience participation, and a darkly comic sub-narrative that involves the lone performer and a risky onstage choice.
I shouldn’t say much more – though the play is hardly plot-based, critics and audiences are admonished not to provide spoilers. Suffice it to say that, in more ways than one, White Rabbit Red Rabbit
reaches well beyond the confines of the Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre space.
For instance, its theatrical novelty, its themes, and its author’s longtime (but recently ended) confinement in his home country have made it a cause celebre
, performed internationally by famed actors. An ongoing run at New York’s West Side theater has featured or will feature Nathan Lane, Whoopi Goldberg, Mike Birbiglia, Cynthia Nixon, David Hyde Pierce and George Takei, among others.
The 12 Peers Theater production is Pittsburgh’s first White Rabbit Red Rabbit
. Some top local talent has already contributed. This past Sunday, for instance, I saw Alan Stanford, artistic and executive director of PICT Classic Theatre – a witty performance that both exploited the script’s opportunities for ad libs and appropriately elicited its darker tones.
And here’s Gwendolyn Kiste’s review
for CP of a performance earlier in the run by Rich Keitel.
Just four performances remain. Tonight, the performer is Brian Edward. Tomorrow night, it’s Jeffrey Carpenter of Bricolage Productions, followed on Saturday by Diana Ifft, and on Sunday by an actor to be announced shortly.
Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre is located Downtown at 937 Liberty Ave., on the third floor.
Tickets are pay-what-you-desire, but can be reserved here