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

COURTESY PHOTO: IMAGO THEATRE - As this illustration suggests, "Julia's Place" by Imago Theatre has an exciting plot involving rhinoceros.As he has done for years with partner Carol Triffle and Imago Theatre, Jerry Mouawad likes to create things.

For years it was puppetry theater, "Frogz" and 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 rhinoceros.

It's a riff on Eugene Ionesco's absurd classic "Rhinoceros," set in a restaurant, and it includes a cast of five comedic Imago actors, shadow puppetry, song and zaniness, June 3-18 at Imago Theatre.

The story, via Imago:

"His wife turned into a rhino. Her girlfriend turned into a rhino, too. We've seen this dehumanizing insanity before. But with 'Julia's Place,' Imago Theatre riffs on Ionesco's freakish scenario — of a populace devolving into horned beasts — to deliver a freshly philosophical farce. One part existentialism, two parts slapstick, this zany social satire incorporates shadow puppetry and pure buffoonery as its two lead characters — Porkchop (Josh Edward) and Ralph (Noel Olken) — figure out a way to survive the stampeding apocalypse with a trio of fellow misfits or, at least, get a plate of spaghetti from the kooky cafe owner (Carol Triffle) before the world ends."

COURTESY PHOTO: JON FARLEY - Carol Triffle plays Julia and Noel Olken plays Ralph in "Julia's Place."Ionesco's version "was very clearly a piece about people joining the side of the Nazi movement," said Mouawad, who serves as writer and director for the Imago show, and "illuminated how people can easily be swayed to damaging forces. My piece left ambiguous why people turn into rhinoceros. The entire play has the characters trying to determine why people are mutating."

Unlike "Frogz" and "ZooZoo," it involves shadow puppetry — figures in the windows of the restaurant.

"The shadow work is really crucial to the piece, but it's not for family audiences," Mouawad said. "It's rated for 16 and older, I think kids would get bored. It starts out quite absurd, with two characters in a restaurant trying to order.

"Porkchop, Ralph and Julia are thematic characters. Porkchop starts going into an examination of what is time and reality. They're having trouble with language. In midst of that a rhino runs by, and they can't escape, Julia lives in the restaurant in the back. … Act two, Porkchop is coming back in and says his wife has turned into a rhino. And she's crashing a BMW."

Another character, Leonardo, tries to kill rhinos; his father had turned into a rhino and it made him delirious. The character Poem's girlfriend turns into a rhino.

As Mouawad says, "I like to take source material and do something with it."

For more, see Imagotheatre.com.


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