White Rabbit Red Rabbit

Meridith Grundei as the Narrator
Meridith Grundei as the Narrator
While improv often takes its cues from the audience, in this case it is the playwright, Nassim Soleimanpour, who, every evening, gives a different actor cues from a script that the actor has never seen, until it is delivered in a sealed manila envelope by the producer.

On Saturday night, August 12th, Meridith Grundei took the voice of the playwright, and well as her own, into the allegorical world that Soleimanpour, an Iranian who is not allowed to leave his country, has imaginatively woven. There are a few props: a ladder, a table with two glasses of water, and a chair.

Once the action begins, the audience counts off, each member receiving a number by which they may be tagged in the script, to participate on stage for a few moments.

Audience participants
Audience participants

Soleimanpour raises many existential questions. In fact, he wants all reviewers to know that this is the objective of his play, and not any political overtones one might read into it. With every reviewer's program, the playwright has attached the following message:

URGENT: All media and press agents: This play is NOT overtly political, and should not be portrayed as such. It operates on a deeper, metaphoric level, and very expressly avoids overt political comment. We therefore ask the press to be judicious in their reportage.

Never having been asked—in 20 plus years and over 1,800 productions—by a playwright to do something of this nature, we had immediate reservations; but on reflection, while we found Soleimanpour's metaphorical emphasis important, the denial of political overtones may have been nothing more than a means to protect his life from Iranian authorities who have hung the Sword of Damocles over his head.

Given one shot to see this compelling piece of experimental theatre, we're going to talk about some of the details; so, if you're going to see this play, you may not want to read further, until you've experienced it for yourself.

The first audience member called to the stage is asked to open of vial of what we are told may be poison, put its contents in one of the water glasses, and stir it. By this, the playwright raises the stakes immediately, much in the way that Chekhov's dramatic rule of thumb regarding guns on stage ups the ante.

Soleimanpour revisits this issue a number of times during the evening, each under a slightly different guise. During one such monologue that Grundei reads as if she has rehearsed it (Brava!), the playwright lists 17 different ways in which suicides occur—including guns, overdoses,and jumping from precipices—and then adds one more: life. It's a strong point: we get to choose the way we die. This appears to be the "deeper" metaphor to which Soleimanpour refers in his note to the press, which we find easy enough to accept: We know we're only here for a blink of an eye; how do we make it count?

But there is another through line in this story, with another set of assumptions, in which the playwright uses animals, to convey a social and political message, much as Orwell did in Animal Farm, although Soleimanpour calls it a circus. Here, he involves a bear and a rabbit. The bear sets up hurdles that the rabbit must overcome to gain admittance to the circus. When the rabbit finally overcomes the bear's obstacles, he encounters another set of obstacles designed to make him a hateful object (red rabbit) in the eyes of other (white) rabbits.

White Rabbit Red Rabbit
White Rabbit Red Rabbit
As noted, we take the playwright's request with a grain of salt, given his circumstances: Soleimanpour's allegory maps congruently to the way in which the US and other proxy states for the Anglo-Euro-American banking cartel have forced Iran to submit to inspections regarding its nuclear program, and then after Iran agreed to the cartel's provisions and gave up any fissionable materials, the cartel's politicians and media still pretend that Iran is developing "weapons of mass destruction." Where have we seen this ploy before? Hint: the invasion of Iraq. Why? Iran is one of only five nations that controls its own central bank and currency. The others are Syria, North Korea, Cuba, and Sudan. Together they comprise the bulk of the cartel's "official enemies list." There were other nations (Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Tunisia, Libya) that were in the same boat, but they were all earmarked for destruction prior to 9-11. So, after the cartel disposes of one rabbit painted red (!!!), another white rabbit is painted red, and the death and destruction continues.

Soleimanpour has more musings on a variety of subjects, all curious and compelling.

Pipedream Productions's presentation of White Rabbit Red Rabbit runs through September 11th. For tickets:

Bob Bows

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