“People who try to hang on to their individuality always come to a bad end!” Berenger (right, portrayed by Kevin Webb) is confronted by his once dear friend Jean (left, played by Cali Turner).
Review by Norah Shadwell, Highlands High School Critic Team
Branching out in luminescent circuits like roots in soil, a pachyderm microchip reaps the minds of fascist media consumers in an epidemic: and clear warning to the audience of the perils of misinformation. In a dystopian future where the only continuity is contradiction, Campbell County High School’s Rhinoceros illustrates a tale of suppression of individuality with alluring creativity and character.
An absurdist play by Eugène Ionesco, Rhinoceros follows Berenger, a man criticized for his passive and drunken nature. A string of ludicrous events, involving the appearance of rhinos around the town, makes him question what is true and the fairness of logic itself. As his loved ones transform into beasts of hypocrisy, Berenger must hold his ground and decide to remain the world's sole human against expectation.
The cast and crew showed professionalism in the transformation of their proscenium stage to a thrust, elegantly navigating the challenges it posed. Actors not only utilized the space naturally but gave an immersive experience to the audience, shooting knowing glances and asking questions to first-row spectators. Backstage, leaders like costume head Brooklynn Overgaard-McCool and stage manager, Catherine Deaton, organized numerous set and costume quick changes seamlessly.
Kevin Webb’s performance as Berenger was poetic and beautifully contrasted to the other characters onstage. His grounded physicality and authenticity in the flaws of Berenger gave the protagonist emotional depth and likability. Webb’s acting style perfectly balanced Jean, played by Cali Turner. Turner’s arc from her pompous attitude and lecturing inflection of act one into the barbaric delinquency of the latter showcases her immense range and attention to detail.
The Logician, played by Jonas Aboagye, was a looming presence throughout the entirety of the performance. Beginning the show mounted upon his platform of garbage, the glare from his elevated throne made it hard to distinguish whether the judgment of Aboagye was meant for those in the story or the audience. Claire Songer brought confident defiance to the character of Daisy, making it all the more meaningful and heartbreaking when she succumbed to rhinoceroses overtime.
Assistant Technical Director, Payton Potts, and set crew were able to cultivate a futuristic atmosphere through the installation of technology from different decades. The mounds of cassette tapes, TV cables, and blackberry phones, though eclectic, are aesthetically pleasing and along with the hand built wooden crates, are able to pull the audience in physically. Furthermore, Rae Clark, Taylor Gillespie, and Kayla Haigis used bright colors in the hair and makeup to represent the vibrancy of thought in characters like Daisy and Botard.
Overall, Campbell County High School’s thought provoking rendition of Rhinoceros was a delightful display of art and emotion. Though the play posed many questions about philosophy, the cast and crew proved that passion and collaboration can produce magic on the stage.
Daisy (Claire Songer) looks on and realizes she is one of the last of her kind remaining after a rhinoceros craze sweeps through town.
Review by Lily Anderson, Saint Ursula Academy Critic Team
To be clear, it was the unicorned Asiatic rhinoceros followed by an African rhinoceros with two horns. Or was it? Campbell County High School’s production of Rhinoceros left the audience questioning whether the information they consume is always the absolute truth.
Eugène Ionesco originally wrote Rhinoceros in 1959 and was translated into English by Derek Prouse ten years later. Rhinoceros follows the story of Jean and Berenger as they struggle between conformity and free thinking. The added symbolism of the rhinoceros shows the effects of conformity and the loss of individuality.
Campbell County’s production took a spin on the original play and applied it to more modern audiences by connecting the concept of conformity to social media. The constant phone chimes and technology embedded in the black-box set immersed the audience in media which allowed the audience to be fully immersed in the dilemma the characters were facing.
Cali Turner exquisitely portrayed Jean as she struggled to maintain her own identity. She had an incredible range from a sensible businesswoman and concerned friend to a wild woman on the brink. Kevin Webb as Berenger also showed great depth as he transformed from a struggling drunkard to a self-empowered man determined to maintain his flawed humanity. Turner and Webb had incredible chemistry on stage as you could see their genuine friendship and feel as it fractures throughout the show.
Tammy Callahan brilliantly showed Dudard slipping into technology’s grasp as her voice became more and more distant and robotic. Jeremiah Giesmann as Botard spoke with incredible passion as he voiced his opposition to Berenger but he maintained incredible diction and was easy to understand and relate to. Finally, Jonas Aboagye as the Logician also maintained a semi-robotic voice to show his technological connection. Aboagye was on stage for the entirety of the show, primarily as an observer, and he stayed fully engaged even when it could be tempting to lose focus.
Rhinoceros’ marketing and publicity team (Alexandra Hess, Cali Turner, Annelise Huff, and Loralei Warnick) designed a creative propaganda hallway to promote and showcase the hidden message of the show to the rest of their school community. The costumes team (Brooklynn Overgaard-McCool, Tobias Stambush, and Oakley Wilson) did a brilliant job of distinguishing the characters as their unique personalities by dressing them each in their own vibrant colors at the start of the show. Then, as characters morphed into rhinoceros, their color pallet became dull and the costumes became uniform to visually show their conformity.
Overall, Campbell County High School’s modern take on Ionesco’s Rhinoceros reminded the audience that, even in our world of mass media, independent thinking is crucial to help define ourselves as individuals.
Members of Campbell County’s production of “Rhinoceros” are shocked when a rhinoceros stampedes through town, claiming a town pet as its first victim.
Review by Ashlyn Fuhrmann, William Henry Harrison High School Critic Team
Ring! A telephone chimes. Ping! Another message comes flooding in. Turn the channel to Campbell County High School’s powerful production of Rhinoceros.
Written in 1959 by Eugène Ionesco, Rhinoceros has impactful themes and social commentary on herd mentality and conformity. Originally written about Nazi Germany, Rhinoceros tells the story of Berenger, a man who thinks for himself and refuses to give into the beliefs of others, even when it may not be easy. Since the original production, there have been many adaptations of Ionesco’s play, each addressing the significant themes in their own unique ways. Campbell County High School’s performance brought to light how social media and the internet play into our lives and gives us a screen of societal conformity.
Campbell County High School’s production of Rhinoceros brilliantly executed the intense emotion and moving narrative of this show. The intricate set design, as well as the complex character development led to a thought-provoking and captivating performance.
Kevin Webb skillfully displayed Berenger’s scattered mind and unwavering emotions throughout the progression of the show. From his drunken, oblivious state to his paranoia of rhinoceroses, Webb never failed to bring to light Berenger’s desire to stay solid in his beliefs, even when all else crumbled beneath him. And attempting to bring Berenger out of his “laziness” was his best friend Jean (Cali Turner). Turner expertly brought to life Jean’s descent into madness as she turned from a put together, organized businesswoman always on the run, to a crazed person, eventually turning into a rhinoceros right before Berenger’s eyes, further enhancing this spectacular production.
And showing up as a beacon of hope to Berenger when all else seemed lost was Daisy, played by Claire Songer. Songer beautifully embodied the calm and collected Daisy, being there for Berenger even as he was afraid of the world around him. Songer’s portrayal of Daisy continued to show her belief in Berenger, excellently showing her switch in thought as she becomes a part of the herd. In addition, Tammy Callahan’s nuanced performance of Dudard cleverly unveiled the true meaning of the rhinoceroses: the conformity of social media. As Dudard continued to tempt Berenger into joining the rhinoceroses, Callahan<cq> revealed a continuously darker side to Dudard as the scene progressed.
Depicting this already breathtaking production was Payton Potts and crew’s unique set. Covered in an array of electronics, wires, DVDs, and more, this set brought to life a new understanding for the dystopian wasteland of social media that this show portrayed. Alexandra Hess, Cali Turner, Annelise Huff, and Loralei Warnick’s marketing through the propaganda hall furthered the deep themes of this performance, demonstrating how easily misinformation is spread.
This remarkable production is a challenge with its complex themes and intricate technical requirements, but Campbell County High School exceeded all expectations, leading to a memorable and influential performance.
Excerpts From Other Top Reviews
"Dudard (Tammy Callahan) and Botard (Jeremiah Giesmann) engaged in quip banter and together absolutely enthralled the scene. Their platonic chemistry onstage created a level of depth to the original narrative, providing the audience with a touch of comedic grace regardless of the ongoing external situation. Callahan expressed immense talent when playing Dudard symbolizing the voice of logic and reason using animated facial expressions."
-Nyla Shahanavaz, Walnut Hills High School Critic Team
"Clair Songer portrayed the character Daisy beautifully. Her acting skills took this character to a high level of magnificence. A notable moment of hers was her tragic transition into a rhinoceros, leaving Berenger, as the only human left in the world. The Logician, played by Jonas Aboagye, truly encapsulates the point of the entire show. Jonas played the character with a perfect balance of fascination and disturbance – exactly how this character was intended to be."
-Ella Adams, Mercy McAuley High School Critic Team
"While the entire ensemble of Rhinoceros gave impressive performances, Danton Rust (Town Thinker) and Annelise Huff (Mrs. Boeuf) stood out from the crowd in stage presence and line delivery. Jeremiah Giesmann gave a driven and passionate performance as Botard."
-Katie Berich, Walnut Hills High School Critic Team
"Leading the company was the indomitable duo of Kevin Webb as Berenger and Cali Turner as Jean. Webb gave the crowd a standard of mortality throughout the piece. He depicted Berenger’s fear and paranoia splendidly, as everyone around him transformed into rhinoceroses. On the other side of the spectrum, Turner shrewdly portrayed Jean, as she mutates from the poised friend of Berenger, to the rhinoceritis-ridden mob member, in an impressive display of range. Together, Turner and Webb provided the driving force within the show."
-Clark Sayre, Walnut Hills High School Critic Team
."Costumes crew led by Brooklynn Overgaard-McCool did a wonderful job at conveying the meaning of the story through color. Everyone started the show in bright colors representing their individuality and as the show progressed the colors became more muted. Once everyone was a rhinoceros they wore the same black outfit with a green tie to depict conforming to society.”
-Marie Rainey, Ursuline Academy Critic Team
"Another crew that did a fantastic job in capturing the essence of the show is the props crew, led by Ellie Flinchum. One of the most creative props constructed by this crew is the breakable “glass” cups used in act one. This added a level of realism to the show that truly shocked and startled several members of the audience."
-Elaina Ward, Mercy McAuley High School Critic Team
This production would not have been possible without Campbell County's talented crew. With worthwhile dedication, the set crew built a Black Box theater, where the audience was fully immersed on stage and effectively became a part of the set. Leading towards a maximalist look, every small detail accounted for to visually reaffirm the concepts of the production."
-Anabelle Price, Larry A. Ryle High School Critic Team