Please forgive me — there is very little I can tell you about “White Rabbit, Red Rabbit,” a solo play by young Iranian playwright Nassim Soleimanpour and read by a different local actor at every performance here at the San Francisco International Arts Festival.
The participating actors, as per Soleimanpour’s instructions, do not see the script before the performance begins. They are told a few things in advance, including: Be prepared to impersonate an ostrich and pronounce the author’s name correctly.
The actors are given one prop: a small vial filled with a white powder.
The stage set is nothing more than a chair, a table, two glasses of water and a ladder.
The playwright wrote the monologue in 2010 to be performed by others, because he himself could not leave Iran. That’s because he had no passport, and that’s because he refuses to serve in the military. It has been performed, always by local actors, in various cities.
The game local actor who took up the challenge, and brilliantly so, the day I saw it was esteemed East Bay performer Leonard Pitt. I promise you his ostrich — and his cheetah and his rabbit, too — was exemplary.
But you can’t go wrong whichever day you go. Performers slated for the rest of the run comprise a who’s who of Bay Area theatrical excellence: Paul S. Flores, Rhodessa Jones, Keith Hennessy, Charlie Varon and Brad Erickson, among them.
An allegory about five hungry rabbits in a cage, and a carrot that’s placed tantalizingly on top of a ladder, makes up the core of this insanely metatheatrical play.
Soleimanpour uses a variety of sly theatrical ploys—and his own unique perspective — to explore social issues and existential questions that feel both universal and deeply personal.
His writing is deceptively simple and straightforward, and because it’s written in his non-native English, it has a few anachronistic phrases.
As in: groovy.
Did I mention, dear prospective audience member, that the production is enormously participatory? That you will frequently, and most tenderly, be directly addressed by the playwright through the persona of the actor? That you may feel implicated, or at least unsettled, in one way or another? That the whole experience is altogether funny and serious and surprising and that you — by which I mean we — are all in it together?
I can say no more.
White Rabbit, Red Rabbit
Presented by S.F. International Arts Festival
Where: International Festival Lounge, 540 Sutter St., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. Thursdays and Saturdays, 3 and 7 p.m. Sundays, plus 8 p.m. May 16; closes May 20
Tickets: $12 to $15 Contact: (800) 838-3006 or www.sfiaf.org