21 March 2016


Again one of my reviews will appear too late to encourage folks to see another excellent Regent University Theatre production. Saturday night we went to see "Rhinoceros." Written by Romanian emigre Eugene Ionesco, "Rhinoceros" was a protest against the totalitarian movements in Romania and France (both fascist and communist) that had dominated the period between Word Wars I and II. In "Rhinoceros" a slightly confused young man named Berenger sees his friends, fellow workers, and even the beautiful object of his affection becomes rhinoceroses, coarse and rough members of a herd following who-knows-what passes for public discourse in a small French village.

The comparison to contemporary political discourse driven by social media into ever-increasing polarization is obvious. One's first identification might be with a current vainglorious political figure characterized by vituperative attacks on ex-prisoners of war, women, and various minority groups, and surrounded by none-too-subtle hints of violence. Of course, when originally scheduled, the Tragedy of Donald Trump was far over the horizon. So to what else could Ioneso's dystopian vision of mass coarsening be applied?

On several occasions I have commented on the decreasing quality of higher education in America (here and here). Those posts focused on the for-profit institutions that take money from poorly prepared students that then go on to deliver neither education nor skills. Moving up the food chain, however, are public and private institutions that teach skills of critical thinking but with no orientation toward truth. Tearing down ungrounded consumer-driven presuppositions is fine but unless realism is employed toward Truth it degenerates into skepticism and truth is turned into identity politics.

Identity politics of the Left are deployed in service to certain groups identified by race or sexual orientation; those of the Right to a few others. Both are equally uncommitted to pursuit of the common good because each has, by and large, given up belief that there is such a thing as the "common" good.

Nearly all that passes for politics in America today has become means to exercise raw power. The continuing aggrandizement of the office of president and the means the elites and their unthinking minions will employ to gain power are symptomatic of the sort of world that Ionesco portrayed.

Regent's production of "Rhinoceros" was excellent. In particular, William Viriato's performance in the lead role of Berenger was outstanding. I would strongly encourage you to see it had the production not ended the day before this piece is posted but I nonetheless want to commend the combination of theme and production of this play.

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