Pachyderms Anonymous

Have you ever bought into a hideous and uncomfortable fashion trend just so you wouldn't stand out? Or tried something dangerous and scary just because everyone else was doing it? Avant-garde theater taps into the universal gotcha of peer pressure this week, when Infernal Bridegroom Productions takes on Romanian playwright Eugène Ionesco's 1958 work Rhinoceros.

Don't let the word "avant-garde" scare you away -- IBP associate artistic director and Rhinoceros director Tamarie Cooper swears this play won't leave your brows knitted in utter befuddlement. "It's very accessible," says Cooper. "In some ways it's far more straightforward in plot lines than a lot of the stuff we do."

The plot follows Ionesco's everyman, Berenger, as he watches the inhabitants of his small French town turn into rhinoceroses, one by one. Even residents who first scoff at the trend eventually succumb. "Ionesco wrote this play in response to his experiences in Europe with the rise of fascism," says Cooper. "But it's about so much more than Nazis. It can really be considered timely, the idea of 'joining the herd.' Anyone can find some way to connect with this material, whether you want to translate it into some literal political statement, or just finding your way in the world."

Rhinoceros will be the first play Cooper has directed for IBP, aside from her annual full-on musical and star vehicle, Tamalalia. "The material lends itself well to my experience in directing," she says. "Not that Tamalalia is the same thing -- but this is a highly physical play; there are a large number of characters; and it's stylized. The text itself has so much rhythm. In the beginning of the play, there's chaos in words that requires some specific, detailed staging -- actual physical staging. I already see things in pictures so much from my choreography background that it seemed like a good project for me." -- Lisa Simon

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Lisa Simon