Rhinoceros and Other Plays

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A few of Eugène Ionesco’s plays, most notably Rhinoceros, translated from the French by Derek Prouse, first produced in Paris in 1960. Over the course of four scenes in three acts, almost all the people in a small town turn into rhinoceroses, except for Bérenger, the drinker who somehow manages to keep a clear head throughout. Seemed like commentary on the French response to the Nazi invasion of France during WW2, where people flipped their wigs and became friendly to the invaders. The rhinoceroses maul through the town, killing cats and stairways in their rampage.

The first scene has Bérenger meet his friend Jean for a drink, and that’s when they first spot the rhinoceroses. Next, the scene is in the workplace, where they discuss whether the rhinoceroses were a hoax. After one demolishes their staircase, the crew escape through the window and Bérenger goes off to make amends to Jean for the day before. Only he finds Jean sick in bed, then watches him turn into a rhinoceros. In the last scene, we’re at Bérenger’s apartment, where his work friend Dudard and love interest Daisy are the only humans left in town, watching the rhinoceroses roar and kick up dust below.

By visiting museums, reading literary periodicals, going to lectures. That’ll solve your troubles, it will develop your mind. In four weeks you’ll be a cultured man.

Indeed. (This was Jean’s haphazard plan for how Bérenger could woo Daisy.) Looking forward to catching a performance of this in Seattle next month.