Pamplin Media Group – Welcome to ‘Julia’s Place’, rhinoceros

Imago Theater stages a Jerry Mouawad product that has symbolism written all over it, thanks to Eugene Ionesco.

As he has done for years with his partner Carol Trifle and Imago Theatre, Jerry Mouawad loves to create.

For years it was the puppet theatre, “Frogz” then “ZooZoo”, which certainly appeals to families.

In recent years, it’s been more adult-themed stuff, including his latest work “Julia’s Place,” in which people turn into rhinos.

It’s a riff on Eugene Ionesco’s nonsensical classic “Rhinoceros,” set in a restaurant, and it features a comedic cast of five Imago actors, shadow puppets, songs and follies, June 3 to 18 at the Imago Theater.

The story, via Imago:

“His wife turned into a rhino. His girlfriend turned into a rhino too. We’ve seen this dehumanizing madness before. But with ‘Julia’s Place,’ Imago Theater riffs on Ionesco’s bizarre script – d’ a populace turning into horned beasts – to deliver a fresh philosophical farce. Part existentialism, two parts slapstick, this goofy social satire incorporates shadow puppetry and pure buffoonery as its two main characters – Porkchop (Josh Edward) and Ralph (Noel Olken) – find a way to survive the apocalypse rush with a trio of misfit companions or, at least, get a plate of spaghetti from the goofy cafe owner (Carol Triffle) before the end of the world.”

PHOTO COURTESY: JON FARLEY - Carol Triffle plays Julia and Noel Olken plays Ralph in Ionesco’s version “was very clearly a play about people joining the Nazi movement,” said Mouawad, who is writer and director of the Imago show, and “illuminated how easily people can be influenced by harmful forces. My play remained ambiguous about why people mutate into rhinos.Throughout the play, characters try to figure out why people mutate.

Unlike “Frogz” and “ZooZoo”, these are shadow puppets – characters in restaurant windows.

“The shadow work is really crucial for the piece, but it’s not for family audiences,” Mouawad said. “It’s rated for ages 16+, I think the kids would get bored. It starts out pretty absurd, with two characters in a restaurant trying to order.

“Porkchop, Ralph and Julia are thematic characters. Porkchop begins to examine what time and reality are. They have language problems. In the middle of this, a rhino passes by, and they cannot escape, Julia lives in the diner out back. …Act two, Porkchop comes back and says his wife turned into a rhino. And she crashes a BMW.

Another character, Leonardo, attempts to kill rhinos; his father had turned into a rhinoceros and it made him delirious. Poem’s girlfriend turns into a rhinoceros.

As Mouawad says, “I like to take sources and do something with them”.

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