Ionesco’s Absurdist Play Turns to a Politically Relevant Thriller

Feb. 6, 2018
NORTH ADAMS, MASS. — The third show of Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts’ (MCLA) Fine and Performing Arts Department’s theatre program continues to emphasize this season’s theme of “We the People” with its adaptation of Eugene Ionesco’s play, “Rhinoceros,” which will open at 8 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 23, in MCLA’s Venable Theater.  

Guest artist David Lane, who directs the production, described “Rhinoceros” as an absurdist theatre production that includes comedy and tragedy, as well as dark political tones.

“‘We the People’ is not a given, and democracy doesn’t exist without a country of people to stoke the fire,” Lane said. “‘Rhinoceros’ is a dark reminder of our very human fallacies, and of the aspects in our nature which make the possibility of becoming an authoritarianism society a slippery slope.”

MCLA’s production of “Rhinoceros” treads into the world of psychological horror, playing with the ideas of possession and psychological thrillers, according to Lane. The period is loosely set between World War I and World War II, with inspiration drawn from various expressionist painters of the time, such as Otto Dix, Oskar Kokoschka, and Max Beckman.

With a concept that comes straight from today’s news, the show not only features a deep political take: it also utilizes the student performers’ explorations of the psychological foundation of their characters’ deep, inner-fascist beliefs within the rhinoceros transformations that Ionesco conjures, Lane said.

Lane is a painter, writer, and theatre artist who lives and works in North Adams. He is a two-time Jim Henson Foundation grant recipient for his original play, “The Chronicles of Rose,” which tells the story of Rose Valland, who helped save countless European paintings from being lost forever during WWII.

When he is not in his studio, Lane teaches performance and classes in creative-practice at Siena College in Albany, NY.  In 2016, Siena produced his original clown play, “The Painting,” which was selected to be presented at the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival, Region One.

Last year, Lane was a co-creator and the lead designer of “Iinisikimm,” an illuminated, night-time puppet performance in celebration of the return of Buffalo to Banff National Park in Canada. This summer, in collaboration with the New England Puppet Intensive and Clark Art Institute, he will direct the Third Annual Berkshire Lantern Walk, a community festival of light.

Lane studied drama at the University of Calgary with the likes of Clem Martini and improv guru Keith Johnstone, and earned an MFA in theatre from Sarah Lawrence College in New York.

For more information about Lane, go to

MCLA Theatre program’s adaptation of “Rhinoceros” by Eugene Ionesco will be shown at 8 p.m. on Feb. 23 and 24, and March 2 and 3, with matinees at 2 p.m. on Feb. 24 and March 4.  A talkback will be hosted after the 8 p.m. show on March 3. Performances will take place in Venable Theater on the MCLA campus.

For more information or to reserve tickets, please call the box office at (413)-662-5123 or visit
The theatre program at MCLA develops innovative theatre artists prepared for careers in theatre and graduate study. In the intimate, culturally rich setting of the Berkshires, students hone their craft through intensive studio training and hands-on experience within the context of their broader liberal arts education. Opportunities for practical experience abound, from courses in acting, directing, design, and production, to working alongside a faculty of talented professionals in our award-winning production season. On stage and in the classroom, theatre students at MCLA make theatre of the highest quality, as they explore the rich tradition of this unique, multi-disciplinary art form.

For more information about MCLA’s theatre program, go to

Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA) is the Commonwealth's public liberal arts college and a campus of the Massachusetts state university system. MCLA promotes excellence in learning and teaching, innovative scholarship, intellectual creativity, public service, applied knowledge, and active and responsible citizenship. MCLA graduates are prepared to be practical problem solvers and engaged, resilient global citizens.

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