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'Rhinoceros' Battles Conformity at BAM

The Ionesco play about townspeople turning into rhinoceroses will debut at BAM this October.

This October, will present the New York premiere of Théâtre de la Ville’s production of Ionesco’s absurdist classic, Rhinoceros, directed by the Paris-based company’s artistic director, Emmanuel Demarcy- Mota.

Written in 1959, the play is a satire on social conformity and a commentary on fascismin pre-World War II Europe. As all of the townspeople begin to slowly transform into rhinoceroses, the story’s protagonist, Béranger, must examine his own free will, conformity, and morality as the only one left who remains human.

The director has said that he was drawn to the play because he saw “an evolution toward conformism in our society...at a time when individual thinking seems to be disappearing.”

On restaging his 2004 production, Demarcy-Mota said he wanted the actors to “go further in depth in all of the scenes and develop the internal mechanics of the play to enhance each character's deepest anxiety.”

The production, in French with English titles, is staged in three seamless acts without intermission, with the stage becoming a town square, an office, and an apartment building in quick succession. The cast of 13 performs on two levels, often balancing on the platforms. According to BAM, Jefferson Lembeye’s music fuses electronic sounds and instruments to create an  “atmosphere of lurking danger with increasing intensity.”

Both the company and the director are making their BAM debut.

BAM Howard Gilman Opera House, 30 Lafayette Ave, Oct 4—6 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets: $25, 35, 50, 65 (subject to change after Aug 26)

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