The first rule of White Rabbit Red Rabbit is that you do not talk about White Rabbit Red Rabbit.
How do you review a show that has a different cast every night when you don’t want to give away anything about the show, because that’s part of its charm — although charm is really not the right word? Reader, I’m showing up for this review with as little knowledge as how to do that as Dylan Barlowe had on Nov. 2 when he stepped onstage and saw the script for White Rabbit Red Rabbit for the first time.
That’s not Barlowe’s fault; that’s one of the (many) conceits that surround this show, written by Iranian playwright Nassim Soleimanpour.
White Rabbit Red Rabbit Rules
This is not your typical theatrical performance. There are a few things you need to know about why you can’t know more about why you want to see the show (seriously).
- White Rabbit Red Rabbit has a different actor every night.
- Once an actor performs the show, that actor can never perform it again.
- The actor does not see the script until he steps on stage the night he performs the show.
- That means no rehearsals.
- That doesn’t mean it’s improv, although at times it feels as though it is.
Things get weird, but — and this is important — this is not Theater of the Absurd. This is a one-person show, if you don’t count the copious amounts of compulsory audience participation (which people who hate involuntary audience participation undoubtedly will and should either suck it up or stay home). The show runs slightly longer than an hour, and while the script remains the same, the show you see depends on the actor.
On opening night, Dylan Barlowe took the stage. Does his character have a name? I don’t know. I’m sure the script is out there if you Google, but I didn’t, because the show’s appeal — I believe this more now after experiencing it — comes, in part, from not knowing what will happen. And the audience, same as Barlowe, had no clue what was about to happen.
Barlowe put forth a heartfelt, amazing performance in White Rabbit Red Rabbit.
Barlowe’s a Pinellas County Center for the Arts graduate who went on to Columbia College Chicago before returning home to act on stages across Tampa Bay, and Tampa Bay should count itself lucky that he did. Every performance of White Rabbit Red Rabbit will differ based on the performer and the audience, so I can’t speak to what you’ll see at another show, but Barlowe’s time on stage made for an astounding 65 minutes of theater.
He brought a fresh-faced earnestness to the first half of the performance. This part of the show felt a bit like performative late-night talk show comedy, sort of Jimmy Fallon comes to a small space near downtown St. Pete, but funnier. The second half offered Barlowe the chance to show us his serious side, and he did not let the chance pass him by.
Although he hadn’t had the chance to rehearse, we could almost see his process as he read the words on the page, interpreted them, and, an instant later, presented them to us. While comedy proves more challenging for an actor (although it looks deceptively easy), there’s no doubt both parts of White Rabbit Red Rabbit forced Barlowe to dig deep — quickly and convincingly. I can’t wait to see him in whatever show comes next for him — look for his name and plan to see whatever show he gets cast in next.
See the Show
While I’d love to write about about White Rabbit Red Rabbit’s emotional and theatrical manipulation and what the script suggests about humanity, I can’t. It would ruin an thought-provoking, unsettling, delightful evening of theater. Here’s where you can see it next.
White Rabbit Red Rabbit. Various locations, times, and artists throughout Tampa Bay. Through Nov. 19.
Gavin Hawk at The Savant on 2nd, 634 2nd Ave. S., St. Petersburg. Nov. 3, 7 p.m.
Mona Lim at USF Tampa Theatre Centre, 3837 USF Holly Dr., Tampa. Nov. 4, 2 p.m.
David Jenkins at USF Tampa Theatre Centre, 3837 USF Holly Dr., Tampa. Nov. 4, 7 p.m.
Anthony Gervais at USF Tampa Theatre Centre, 3837 USF Holly Dr., Tampa. Nov. 5, 2 p.m.
Georgia Mallory Guy at Historic Bethel AME, 912 3rd Ave. N., St. Petersburg. Nov. 9, 7 p.m.
Fanni Green at Historic Bethel AME, 912 3rd Ave. N., St. Petersburg. Nov. 10, 7 p.m.
Ivy Sunflower at The Factory, 2622 Fairfield Ave. S., St. Petersburg. Nov. 11, 2 p.m.
Tito Mercado at The Factory, 2622 Fairfield Ave. S., St. Petersburg. Nov. 11, 7 p.m.
John Millsap at The Factory, 2622 Fairfield Ave. S., St. Petersburg. Nov. 12, 2 p.m.
Beth Gelman at WADA ArtsXchange, 515 22nd St. S., St. Petersburg. Nov. 16, 7 p.m.
Lance Markeith at WADA ArtsXchange, 515 22nd St. S., St. Petersburg. Nov. 17, 7 p.m.
Gabriel Ortiz at The Woodson, 2240 9th Ave. S., St. Petersburg. Nov. 18, 2 p.m.
Andrida Hosey at The Woodson, 2240 9th Ave. S., St. Petersburg. Nov. 18, 7 p.m.
Travis Ray at The Woodson, 2240 9th Ave. S., St. Petersburg. Nov. 19, 7 p.m.
Arts All Around!
The Gabber Newspaper covers live theater and art across South Pinellas and, when we find something worth the drive, in the Tampa Bay and Sarasota areas.