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Iranian playwright’s ‘White Rabbit’ is raw and compelling


Iranian playwright’s ‘White Rabbit’ is raw and compelling

Iranian playwright Nassim Soleimanpour has written a play that could travel the world for him, that

We sometimes underestimate the power words have. We use them casually. We shorten them so our communication is as fast and facile as possible. We seldom think back to a time when words were our only way of communicating with one another; we’re in a digital age, where we can Skype with the touch of a button, where we can hop on a plane and cross the world without much thought.

But what if you didn’t have that option? What if you were limited to only your words, if you weren’t allowed the full freedom of the Internet, or even to leave your country as you liked?

Playwright Nassim Soleimanpour wrote a play that could travel the world for him, that could say what he wanted to say, that could see people for him, that could have the freedom he was denied. Unable to fly, his words fly for him.

‘White Rabbit, Red Rabbit’

WHERE: Performing Arts Center, University at Albany, 1400 Washington Ave., Albany

WHEN: Through Saturday

HOW MUCH: $20 to $10

MORE INFO: 442-3997, www.albany.edu/pac

Soleimanpour’s play, “White Rabbit, Red Rabbit,” is hard to categorize — part storytelling hour, part confessional diary piece, part cry for help, part allegorical social commentary. What can be categorized, however, is how compelling it is, and how compelling it is comes from how very true and raw it is.

Soleimanpour, a young Iranian playwright, was, in 2010, unable to leave the country because he refused to do his two mandatory years of military service (and was therefore denied a passport.) Desiring to connect, he wrote a one-person show that can be performed by anyone, anywhere — no need for a stage or a set, just the barest of props.

The actor or actress taking on the part has one rule — they’re not allowed to see the script before the performance. They’re discovering it along with the audience. One would worry this would make for a haphazard performance, but strangely, it adds to the aura of the evening — the audience and the actor are discovering the playwright, much as he seems to be discovering us through his words.

New actor each night

The University at Albany has lined up a series of powerhouse actors over the four-evening run to read the piece — Chad Larabee on Wednesday, Benita Zahn on Thursday, Yvonne Perry on the Friday and Ward Dales on Saturday.

Larabee’s performance was excellent — for a cold read, he stumbled infrequently (the sign of a talented actor, to be sure) and engaged the audience warmly and kindly throughout. It would be interesting to watch all four nights of the show, just to compare the four actors and what they’d bring to the part, but it also might not be as fresh after the secrets have been revealed and you know what the script — sealed in an envelope until the show begins — contains.

Since the run is so short, and the piece is so innovative and unlike most theater we see in the area, I highly recommend it. If Soleimanpour can’t leave Iran, the least we can do is travel a few miles to see what he has to say when his words — the only part of him that can — are visiting us, briefly, here in our area.

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