By Lynn Venhaus
Think of it as ‘80s performance art meets a ‘60s Be-In. An experimental “happening” play, “White Rabbit, Red Rabbit” by Nassim Soleimanpour, is being presented by the Black Mirror Theatre Company for a brief four-performance run just to do something different.
And unique it is – interactive with the audience and performed without a set, director, or rehearsals. A different actor reads the script cold – for the first and last time – at each performance, and their name goes on a list so that they can never perform it again.
If it sounds fringy, it appeared at the St. Louis Fringe Festival in 2021.
When he was 29, Soleimanpour was forbidden to leave his country, Iran. He can’t leave because he is a conscientious objector who has refused to take part in mandatory military service. Barred from travel, he turned his isolation into an absurdist theatrical experience that brings actor and audience together through uncharted terrain.
But above all, it’s his voice, coming through different actors.
On opening night, Jarek Templeton was the actor who opened the script that had been sealed in a manila envelope and given to him by producer Michelle Zielinski. He then read the pages in a folder as instructed. He immediately took control and guided audience members on what they had to do, and he performed the actions the playwright requested.
Because of its unusual structure, the focus is on how the performer handles the on-the-fly aspect and tapping into the innovative playwrighting. The audience was game – applauding and participating when called upon.
On Friday, Evan Turek will be the actor, Dorothy LaBounty on Saturday, and Ellie Schwetye on Sunday.
Part comedy, part drama, the playwright is involved in each production – he communicates with notes to the people involved in putting on the show. They were told 48 hours before the show to have water on stage, and two glasses.
It may start out light-hearted, or a bit daffy, but included are some serious topics to mull over. Because of its spontaneity, the less you know going in, the better.
The Black Mirror’s earnest commitment to creating interesting theater took a leap forward with this intriguing concept.
The Black Mirror Theatre Company presents “White Rabbit/Red Rabbit” on association with Aurora Nova Productions and Boat Rocker Entertainment Nov. 2-5 p.m. at 7 p.m. Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, and 2 p.m. on Sunday at The Chapel, 6238 Alexander Drive, St. Louis, MO 63105. For more information, visit blackmirrortheatre.org
More information is also available” https//www.facebook.com/WhiteRabbitRedRabbit
Lynn Venhaus has had a continuous byline in St. Louis metro region publications since 1978. She is a Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic, currently reviews films for Webster-Kirkwood Times and KTRS Radio, covers entertainment for PopLifeSTL.com and co-hosts podcast PopLifeSTL.com…Presents, and writes features and news for Belleville News-Democrat and contributes to other publications. She is a member of CCA, AWFJ and St. Louis Film Critics Association. She is a founding member of the St. Louis Theater Circle.