Have you ever seen a play with no rehearsals, no director and no set, where each of four performances offers a different cast, plot, and most significantly, where the actors don’t know anything about the show they’re going to perform?
That’s what “White Rabbit Red Rabbit” is all about, and why it’s for audience members at least 14 years old. It runs At The Underground Theatre at The Mary C. O’Keefe Cultural Center in Ocean Springs at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and again April 28 and 29.
The maximum 50-person audience will be seated on the stage and are requested to keep their cell phones on. Yes, you read that right. And then we’ll all know what brilliant Iranian playwright Nassim Soleimanpour and out-of- the-box-thinking producer Bryan Vonderbrugge have in store for cast and audience.
All four shows will feature one actor who knows nothing about what will transpire after he takes the stage, approaches a lectern, opens a manila envelope and receives his or her script, instructions, orders. And the audience gets an up-close view of what happens next.
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The actors will be Vanessa Pierce Rodriguez on Friday; David Delk on Saturday; Felice Kelly Gillum on April 28; and Ryan Pierini on April 29. They say they are very excited and not a little bit nervous.
I caught up with renowned Coast actor David Dellk to find out more about what was going on. But he didn’t know.
“All I know is what I’ve been told after I foolishly volunteered to be one of the four,” he said with a laugh. “That I’ll walk up to the stage where the audience is seated, open an envelope and get my script.” When prompted to reveal more, he said, “I was allowed to ask three questions, and I asked, ‘Am I required to take any clothes off?’ ‘Are there curse words in the script?’ and ‘Will this ruin my reputation as a serious actor?’ They answered ‘no’ to the first, ‘yes’ to the second, but said I didn’t have to use ‘those words,’ and that nothing would ruin my reputation.”
All we know for sure is playwright Nassim escaped his native country with this original play about contemporary Iran and his own well-educated, well-informed generation’s experiences there.
This play has been translated into 20 languages and been produced more than 1,000 times worldwide (including recently at Jackson’s New Stage Theater) and various productions have starred such luminaries as Whoopi Goldberg, Nathan Lane, F. Murray Abraham, Stephen Rea, John Hurt and Martin Short. The New York Times has lauded it as a “playful, haunting and enigmatic show.”
Movies are often imaginative, which is always due in part to technical “magic.” But here on the Ocean Springs stage, in the hands of some of the Coast’s most versatile and talented performers, something special from a worthy writer this way comes, and you may not want to be the one who heard about how entertaining and moving this show was, and have to say, “Rats, I missed a truly unique theatrical experience.”
Or better yet, brag to all your friends who did miss it that you knew as much about the leading actor’s role as he or she did, from the opening curtain to when the stage went black. Or will it?
‘White Rabbit Red Rabbit’
Where: At The Underground Theatre at Mary C. O’Keefe Cultural Center, 1600 Government St., Ocean Springs
Producer: Bryan Vonderbrugge
When: 8 p.m. Friday, Saturday and April 28 and April 29